How to Help a Friend or Family Member
Carefully and With Kindness
It’s impossible to know for sure what is going on in someone else’s family or relationship. But, if you are worried that someone is experiencing domestic violence, you can offer help and support in several ways.
If you hear or see an assault, or think that someone is in immediate danger, call 911 and report it to the police.
If there is not immediate danger, WC&S’ hotline services are available not only to survivors of domestic violence (DV) but also to anyone supporting someone who is experiencing DV. Our trained DV advocates can provide support and guidance. The hotline is available by phone 24/7, and by text or chat from 9am-5pm, Monday-Friday.
Questions to Ask Yourself
If you are worried that someone you know is experiencing domestic violence (DV), here are some questions you can ask yourself.
If you answer “yes” to some or all of these questions, it may be possible that the person you are worried about is experiencing domestic violence.
- Have you ever noticed a bruise or any injury on them?
- Do they seem to have lost interest in their hobbies or favorite activities?
- Do you think they are changing what they look like, their personality, or interests to make someone else happy?
- Does their partner cause embarrassing or awkward situations that make them, and you, feel uncomfortable?
- Are they blamed, or do they blame themselves, for any issues in their relationship or their partner or family member’s negative behavior?
- Do they have sudden and unpredictable mood changes, or seem like they are being triggered by something?
- Do you think someone is stopping them from seeing or contacting friends, family, or colleagues?
- Does it seem like they have to let someone know where they are very often or all the time? Are they being followed, tracked or “spied on”?
- Have you noticed that they have less control of their finances or have to ask their partner for money?
- Have they mentioned their partner accusing them of cheating or having an affair without reason?
What You Can Do If You Suspect Domestic Violence
Remember, there are lots of reasons for changes in behavior. Try to keep an open mind. What you do and say should be done carefully and with kindness.
Your first instincts may be to try and protect or take your friend or family member out of their situation. But, taking direct action could be dangerous for both the person and yourself. And, if the person perceives you are being judgmental about what they should do, that may close down communication.
Still, there are many ways you can learn more about what they are experiencing and show that you’re there to support them.
If someone tells you about their experience of being abused, believe them. Don’t ask for proof. Do not criticize them or make them feel the abuse is their fault. Respond calmly. Thank them for trusting you. Let them know you believe them, and that you know it is not their fault.
Before you offer any advice or make any practical suggestions, make time to listen patiently. Listening will help you understand the situation. Asking questions and letting them describe the difficulties they are facing may also help them find their own answers. Acknowledge how they are feeling. Do not dismiss their love for the person using abuse.
You may have ideas about what your friend or family member should do next; while your input may be helpful to them, remember they are an adult and will make their own decisions. You may want to take action to keep them safe; please only do so if this is what they want to do. You may want to tell other friends or family, or even contact the person carrying out the abuse; do not do this. Keeping this information to yourself may be critical to helping the person to remain safe.
Help contact DV services:
You may be able to support your friend, family, or colleague to get in touch with services that are specialists in domestic violence. You should only do this if they agree it is a step they want to take. They might need to borrow your phone, laptop, or tablet. You could offer to be with them when they call or visit the service for moral support.
Look after yourself:
Supporting someone in an abusive situation can be stressful and worrying. So, it is important that you take care of yourself too. Get good sleep, eat healthy foods, stay active, do things you enjoy, and spend time with others. A domestic violence hotline can provide emotional support to a support person like you, as well as to the person experiencing abuse.