When reaching out to Someone who may be experiencing abuse, it’s essential to choose a time and place that is quiet and calm. Allowing enough time for the person to open up and share their feelings is essential, even if it takes longer than expected. You don’t want to shorten the conversation because of other obligations or commitments. Remember, being there for Someone in need can make all the difference.
Let Them Know you are Concerned
Let the person know that you will be discreet about any information disclosed. Don’t try to force the conversation; let it unfold at a comfortable pace. Take it slow and easy offering a sympathetic ear and your support.
Just Listen-Don’t Judge
Listening without being judgmental or offering solutions actively is essential. Please give them the space to express their feelings and fears, and don’t interrupt or cut the conversation short. Ask clarifying questions but let them guide the conversation. Remember, you may be the first person they’ve confided in, so it’s essential to be patient and supportive.
Identifying the Signs
Many people try to cover up the abuse for a variety of reasons, and learning the warning signs of domestic abuse can help you help them:
- Black eyes
- Busted lips
- Red or purple marks on the neck
- Sprained wrists
- Bruises on the arms
- Low self-esteem
- Overly apologetic or meek
- Changes in sleeping or eating patterns
- Anxious or on edge
- Substance abuse
- Symptoms of depression
- Loss of interest in once-enjoyed activities and hobbies
- Talking about suicide
- Becoming withdrawn or distant
- Last-minute cancellations of appointments or meetings
- Being late often
- Excessive privacy concerning their personal life
- Isolating themselves from friends and family
It is important to show support and belief in victims of domestic violence. The perpetrator’s behaviour is about control, not just anger, so the victim is usually the only one who witnesses their dark side.
It can be surprising for others to hear that Someone they know could be violent. This can make victims feel like no one would believe them if they spoke out about the abuse. By acknowledging their story and expressing your support, you can bring hope and relief to the victim. Finally, having Someone who understands their struggles can make a significant difference.
Validating a Persons’ Feelings
It is not unusual for victims to express conflicting feelings about their partner and their situation. These feelings can range from:
- Guilt and anger
- Hope and despair
- Love and fear
Remember validating the person’s feelings is important to remind them that having conflicting thoughts is normal. But it is also essential to confirm that violence is not okay, and fear of being physically attacked is not normal.
Some victims may not realize that their situation is abnormal because they have no other models for relationships and have gradually become accustomed to the cycle of violence.
Support them to acknowledge that violence and abuse are not part of healthy relationships. Confirm that their situation is dangerous and that you are concerned for their safety without judging.
Why Some Victims May Find It Difficult to Leave
It can be hard to understand why Someone you care about would choose to stay in an abusive or unhealthy relationship. Here are a few reasons why it is not easy for them to leave:
- Fear of harm if they leave
- They still love their partner and believe they will change.
- Their partner promised to change.
- A strong belief that marriage is “for better or worse.”
- Thinking the abuse is their fault
- Staying for the children
- Lack of self-confidence
- Fear of isolation or loneliness
- Pressure from family, community, or church
- Lack of means (job, money, transportation) to survive on their own
Help them Find Support and Resources
Call telephone numbers for shelters, social services, attorneys, counsellors, or support groups. If available, offer brochures or pamphlets about domestic violence.
You will also want to help them get information on any laws regarding protective orders/restraining orders and child custody information. You can search for legal information on Hse.ie.
If the victim asks you to do something specific and you are willing to do it, do not hesitate to help. If you cannot, try to find other ways the need can be met:
- Identify their strengths and assets, and help them build and expand upon them, so they see the motivation to help themselves.
- It is essential to let them know that you are there for them, available at any time.
- Let them know the best way to reach you if help is needed.
- If possible, offer to go along for moral support to the police, court, or lawyer’s office.
- Let the person know they are not alone, and help is available.
Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 for immediate assistance and a referral to nearby counselling services or support groups.
Creating a Safety Plan is Essential
The plan can help you visualise the steps needed to ensure safety and prepare mentally to act. When assisting the victim in creating a safety plan, consider each step carefully and weigh the risks and benefits of each option. Some things to include in the plan include:
- A safe place to go in an emergency,
- A prepared excuse to leave if feeling threatened,
- A code word to alert family or friends that help is needed,
- An “escape bag” with necessary documents and essentials and a list of emergency contacts.
If you need clarification on the danger level of the situation, you can take the Danger Assessment Quiz to find out. Remember, protecting yourself and your loved ones is crucial.
Experts on Domestic Violence suggest you Do Not
- Bash the abuser. Focus on the behaviour, not the personality.
- Blame the victim. That is what the abuser does.
- Underestimate the potential danger for the victim and yourself.
- Promise any help if you cannot follow through with it.
- Give conditional support.
- Do anything that might provoke the abuser.
- Pressure the victim.
- Give up. If they are not willing to open up at first, be patient.
- Do anything to make it more difficult for the victim.
When to Call the Police
If you are witnessing or experiencing domestic violence, ensuring your safety is crucial. If you are in immediate danger, call 999 or contact the police immediately.
Remember, there are no situations in which children should be left in a violent situation. If you are a parent and your child is in danger, take whatever steps are necessary to protect them, even if it means going against the wishes of the abuser or the victim.
You can also contact child protective services for assistance.
It is important to remember that when Someone you care about is experiencing domestic violence, the decision to leave and seek help must come from them. As difficult as it might be to watch them suffer, you must respect their autonomy and support them no matter what. By providing a loving and safe friendship, you can help them feel empowered to make the right choices.
For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.