Some of the discussion during the bloggers’ forum on domestic violence centred around how to help those who are in abusive relationships. While asking “Why don’t you just leave?” is not helpful, neither is giving advice, because unless you’ve been in a similar situation yourself, you will not be able to understand what your friend is feeling and thinking.
Approach your friend or relative in a sensitive way, letting them know that you are concerned. Tell them you’re worried about them and explain why. For example:
I’m worried about you because I’ve noticed you seem really unhappy lately.
Listen without judgement when they choose to confide in you. Don’t offer advice, but do ask what they need – be supportive of whatever they want or need to do.
Believe them and take them seriously.
Understand that they may be deeply ashamed of their circumstances. They may believe that it’s all their fault. They may think they’re exaggerating. They may believe that marriage is forever.
Be there for them and remain in touch. Make a habit of checking in with them on a regular basis, maybe once a week. Let them know that their admission has not changed your relationship.
Offer or find them a safe haven for when they need to get away quickly. This may be a spare room at your place, a holiday home, a rental property, a neighbour with a spare room, a women’s shelter, or even a motel.
Build up their confidence by reminding them of what they’ve done and achieved in the past. Remind them how brave they’ve been to have lived with the abuse for so long. Tell them they are a good friend, a great parent and a worthwhile human being, someone who deserves a safe life.
Help them to pack an “escape bag” or several, which can be hidden around the house. This bag should include a change of clothes for them and the children, (baby supplies,) toiletries, cash, car keys, a credit card, ID such as a passport and phone numbers of people and organisations who can help.
Help them prepare a safety plan. They should have a number of options of places to run to, this might include a friend’s house, family, or a women’s shelter. Make sure they have a list of all the relevant phone numbers, like the local shelter, the police, Centrelink, Child Protection, a lawyer, family, etc.
Provide them with helpful information and access to resources like Safe Steps, Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria, or their equivalents in your State. Find out if there is a local shelter or another organisation that can help. Just search for “family violence” and “your local area” on the internet.
Offer to accompany them to the police station, to meet with a lawyer or attend court, if needed.
Call the police when you know they are in immediate danger.
When they are ready, your friend, or family member, will take the steps they need to get themselves and their children to safety. Until then, just be there, listen and support their choices.
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, please call 1 800 RESPECT for advice and support. For further resources go to Safe Steps.
If you are, or see someone, in immediate danger, call 000.