What can I do to help someone likely to be experiencing domestic violence?
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- Have become withdrawn, low or anxious.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
Home Office: Policy. Violence against women and girls in the UK; GOV.UK, March 2013
Improving safety, Reducing harm: Children, young people and domestic violence; Dept of Health, November 2009 (archived content)
Multi-agency statutory guidance on female genital mutilation; HM Government (April 2016)
Protecting people promoting health. A public health approach to violence prevention in England; Dept of Health, October 2012
Domestic abuse, sexual assault and stalking - Chapter 4: Focus on violent crime and sexual offences, Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW); Office for National Statistics (ONS), February 2017
Feder G, Davies RA, Baird K, et al; Identification and Referral to Improve Safety (IRIS) of women experiencing domestic violence with a primary care training and support programme: a cluster randomised controlled trial. Lancet. 2011 Nov 19378(9805):1788-95. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(11)61179-3. Epub 2011 Oct 12.
Buller AM, Devries KM, Howard LM, et al; Associations between Intimate Partner Violence and Health among Men Who Have Sex with Men: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. PLoS Med. 2014 Mar 411(3):e1001609. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001609. eCollection 2014 Mar.
Domestic violence and abuse: how health services, social care and the organisations they work with can respond effectively; NICE Public Health Guidance (February 2014)
The World's Women 2015. Trends and Statistics. Violence against Women. Chapter 6; United Nations Statistics Division
Preventing intimate partner and sexual violence against women: taking action and generating evidence; World Health Organization, 2010
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