Domestic Violence - How can I help someone else?

Authored by Dr Jacqueline Payne, 08 May 2017

Patient is a certified member of
The Information Standard

Reviewed by:
Dr Mary Harding, 08 May 2017

Because domestic violence is so common, there is a good chance you may know somebody who is, or has been, affected. They may confide in you, or you may recognise some of the signs. For example, they may:

  • Have unexplained injuries.
  • Have become withdrawn, low or anxious.
  • Stop seeing you as often.
  • Not seem to have access to money.
  • Frequently miss work or social events.
  • Appear afraid of their partner/relative or anxious about what their partner/relative might do or say.
  • Receive regular phone calls from their partner checking up on them.
  • Talk about their partner's jealousy or possessiveness or unpredictable behaviour.
  • Be regularly criticised or insulted or put down by their partner/relative in your presence.

Encourage your friend or relative to talk to you. Express concern, and if they haven't confided in you, start with nonspecific questions or comments to show you care. "Is everything OK at home?" "You seem worried about something. Can I help at all?"

Often it is difficult to understand why someone you care about stays in an abusive relationship. Try to understand, and support, not to judge them or become irritated. Some reasons people stay in an abusive relationship are:

  • They are frightened of what their abuser may do. (A lot of murders relating to domestic violence happen after the person has left an abusive relationship.)
  • They are worried their children will be taken away, or about the consequences for the children.
  • They can't afford to live on their own.
  • They have lost the self-confidence that they can manage on their own.
  • They are embarrassed or ashamed of what has been happening to them.
  • Cultural reasons.
  • They don't think anyone will believe them.
  • They don't think anyone can help them.
  • They still love their partner.

You can help by being there to be supportive and non-judgmental. Don't tell them what to do, but help them work out the best solution for themself. All the advice options in the section "How can I get help if I am affected by domestic violence?" (above) offer help, advice and support to friends and family of victims of domestic violence. You can phone, or browse their websites to see what would help in your situation, and you can point your friend towards someone who can help.

Further reading and references

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