What if a friend or relative is being abused?

If a friend or family member (male or female) tells you they are being abused, there are many things you can do to help.

  • Let them know you believe them - it will have taken a lot for them to share this information with you
  • Be supportive
  • Keep the lines of communication open, otherwise they may become more isolated
  • If they refuse to leave their abuser, respect their decision and support them. They probably still love the person and believe they will change. The decision to leave must come from the victim, and it may take several attempts to finally leave

State of mind: The abused may feel ashamed about what’s happening and believe the abuse is their fault. They are not to blame. Their self-esteem maybe very low and they might feel they cannot cope on their own. However, the truth is that they could probably cope better than they think. When the abuse stops, the person will gradually re-build their self-confidence. This will take time.

Safety: Safety - yours and theirs- must take priority. The abuser may not welcome your involvement, so be careful about when, where and how you become involved. Be careful not to intervene personally. Ring the police if there is immediate danger.

Practical support: There is a great deal of support available to victims of domestic abuse – both national and locally. You can help by directing the person to these organisations (see Help and Support links on the right-hand side of this page). They can provide knowledge and counselling and answer questions about financial, accommodation and emotional support. You could also help them develop a safety plan so that they have all the options ready if they decide to leave.

Practical tips: Agree a code word or action. If they say this to you, you’ll know they are in danger and cannot get the help themselves.

Research: Find out as much as you can about their rights and specialist support agencies (such as Refuge and Women’s Aid for women or the Male Domestic Violence Advice Line for men) who can provide practical and emotional support. Give them all the information and allow them time to read it through and digest.

Don’t forget to seek some support yourself: Supporting someone in a domestic abuse relationship will be difficult and you will need to be strong. Most domestic abuse services are happy to help with any worries you may have or provide suggestions for other actions you might need to take.

Don't give up on them. You might be their only lifeline: Remember that you cannot “rescue” them from the situation. It is very difficult to see someone you care about being hurt (physically or emotionally) but they have to make the decision and change the situation.

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