Unless you are attempting to assist someone who has been very open about their experiences it may be difficult for you to talk to them about their situation directly.
However, there are some basic steps that you can take to assist a friend, family member, colleague, neighbour or anyone that you know who confides in you that they are experiencing domestic abuse.
- Approach them in an understanding, non-blaming way. Explain to them that they are not alone and that there are many people like them in the same situation. Acknowledge that it takes strength to trust someone enough to talk to them about experiencing abuse. Give them time to talk; don’t push them to go into too much detail.
- Acknowledge that they are in a scary, difficult situation. Tell them that no-one deserves to be threatened, demeaned or beaten, despite what their abuser has told them.
- Support them as a friend. Be a good listener. Encourage them to express their hurt and anger. Allow them to make their own decisions, even if it means they aren’t ready to leave the relationship. Remember: this is their decision.
- Ask if they have suffered physical harm. Offer to go with them to the hospital if they need to go. Help them to report the assault to the police if they so choose.
- Be ready to provide information on the help available to survivors of abuse and their children. Explore the available options with them.
- Plan safe strategies for leaving. Let them create the boundaries of what is safe and what is not safe; don’t encourage them to follow any strategies about which they are expressing doubt. A women is the best judge of what is safe for her.
- Offer the use of your address / telephone number for information and messages relating to your friend’s situation.
- Look after yourself while you are supporting someone through such a difficult and emotional time. Ensure that you do not put yourself into a dangerous situation; for example, do not offer to talk to the abuser about your friend or let yourself be seen by the abuser as a threat to their relationship.