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Friends and family

Friends on a bench

The chances are that you know someone who is experiencing domestic abuse. It might be your sister, neighbour, hairdresser, friend or colleague. If you know or suspect that someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse it can be upsetting, and difficult to know what to do.

For most people, their first instinct is to try to ‘save’ someone from the relationship, and to tell the person being abused that they have to leave their relationship. Unfortunately it is almost never that simple.

There are lots of reasons why people stay with abusive partners, and leaving is often the most dangerous time for a woman and her children. It’s really important that you don’t put pressure on her to end the relationship; she can only do this when she is ready, and there are other ways you can help her until then.

It’s important that if you do suspect domestic abuse, you do not ignore it. Women experiencing abuse are often scared, ashamed and confused, and many don’t want to accept that their partner is abusive.

I think my friend is being abused, how do I bring up the subject?

It can take time for a woman to get to the point where she recognises she is being abused and even more time to get to a point where she feels safe to make decisions about what to do, you need to be patient with her.

  • If you want to approach her do it in a sensitive way, such as ‘I am worried about you because…’ ‘I’ve noticed that since you met…… you no longer do……’
  • Tell her what you’ve seen or heard and ask her how she feels don’t tell her how you think it should make her feel, don’t be nasty about her partner as this can make her feel she needs to stick up for them.
  • Let her know she is not alone that you know how hard it can be to talk about abuse but you are there when she wants to talk
  • Don’t judge her, let her know you believe her. Decisions women make are based on what they know when they have to make those decisions as relationships develop we learn more making women feel guilty for decisions they have made can build on feelings of guilt and shame.
  • Let her know that what is happening isn’t ok and that it’s not her fault, she’s not to blame
  • Don’t’ tell her she has to leave or end the relationship she has to come to this decision herself, telling her that her decisions are wrong can make her feel even more alone and make her less likely to talk to you

How can I help her to be safe?

  • Decide together what to do to make things safer, this can involve making a safety plan. As part of this you could agree a code word between you that she can use if she needs help.
  • Help your friend to feel good about herself, often domestic abuse leaves women feeling like they aren’t good at anything and can’t cope without their partner, letting her know that she is a good person and can do things for herself
  • Stick with her don’t let her partner drive you away and further isolate her, try to help her to build her outside contacts and support networks
  • Don’t speak to her partner about what is happening as this could put you and her in danger

Who else can help?

Let her know that there is help available, encourage her to speak to Women’s Aid, CAB, Doctor, Health Visitor or other support organisations.

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