someone you care for 685Help someone you care about

It’s not always easy to know how to support a friend or loved one who is experiencing domestic violence or other forms of violence. But you can make a difference. You can learn how to recognise the signs of abuse and find out how to support her.

Some of the commonly asked questions are listed below. For more information on how to support a loved one through domestic violence visit the Refuge and Avon campaign web pages, 1in4women.

  • She may be overwhelmed by fear
  • She may believe that she is to blame and that if she changes her behaviour the abuse will stop
  • She may experience many conflicting emotions. She may love her partner, but hate the violence. She may live in the hope that his good side will reappear
  • She may be dependent on her partner, emotionally and financially
  • She may feel shame, guilt and embarrassment
  • She may feel resigned and hopeless and find it hard to make decisions about her future
  • She may worry about leaving for the sake of the children

You can help your loved one realise that they are not alone and do not have to feel this way.  Support is available; reaching out to access support is a courageous first step.

  • Give her time to open up. You may have to try several times before she will confide in you
  • Try to be direct. Start by saying something like, ‘I’m worried about you because…’ or ‘I’m concerned about your safety…’
  • Do not judge her or her partner – this may alienate her or make her feel ashamed
  • Believe her – too often people do not believe a woman when she first discloses abuse
  • Reassure her that the abuse is not her fault and that you are there for her – no one is responsible for another person’s behaviour
  • Don’t tell her to leave or criticise her for staying. Although you may want her to leave, she has to make that decision in her own time
  • Focus on supporting her and building up her confidence – acknowledge her strengths and remind her that she is coping well in a challenging and stressful situation
  • Abusers often isolate women from friends and family – help her to develop or keep up her outside contacts. This will help boost her self-esteem
  • Encourage her to contact a local domestic violence organisation like Refuge or call the Freephone 24 hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline, run by Refuge on 0808 2000 247 to discuss her support options
  • Be patient. Leaving an abusive partner is a process. It can take time for a woman to recognise she is being abused and even longer to make decisions about what to do. Recognising the problem is an important first step

The safety of your friend or loved one – and her children – is paramount. Talk to her about how she can stay safe. You could:

  • Agree a code word so she can signal when she is in danger and needs you to get help
  • Find out about services which could support her locally
  • Offer to keep a spare set of keys for her or important documents, such as passports, bank account details and benefit information so that she can access them quickly in an emergency
  • Keep a log of the abusive incidents; encourage her to visit the GP and keep copies of emails and texts
  • Encourage her to call the National Domestic Abuse Helpline to discuss safety planning

Remember, in an emergency and if you fear for your friend’s safety, always call 999.

There are many practical and psychological barriers to ending a relationship with a violent partner. She may be afraid of what he will do if she tries to leave. She may not know how she’ll cope financially or may be worried about her children. It takes a great deal of courage to leave someone who controls and intimidates you. Try not to put pressure on your loved one to leave right away. Leaving is not a single act – it is a process that takes time. On average, a woman will leave seven times before she makes the final break. Let her know that you are there for her, no matter what she decides to do.

Read more about the barriers to leaving here.