Being in a situation where abuse is occurring is often a very lonely place; support becomes extremely important, and for someone to know they have a true friend is important – regardless of whether they stay or leave… Equally, sometimes people don’t believe they are in an unhealthy or abusive relationship! Often, they’re made to believe that they are the problem and are at fault in the relationship. You can plant seeds by encouraging them to seek support, and provide signposting such as our article on the Warning Signs of an Unhealthy Relationship.
Knowing someone out there cares for you can give strength…
It is tough when we care about someone who has become stuck in an unhealthy relationship where there is domestic abuse; it causes great pain, upset, and confusion. Often, the only thing you want to say is: “just leave”… it is unfortunately just not that simple, but you can provide a lifeline to someone which can be absolutely vital
Make sure your friend knows you are there to talk to.
Try and stay in touch with them and if appropriate, ask them what a good and safe way to communicate is. Staying in touch can be as simple as asking how the kids are or general chit-chat; there is no need to talk about abuse all the time – the important thing is to be there for them for when they do want to talk.
Let them know you care and are concerned about their safety.
Be honest and explain when you were concerned. Explain that no one deserves abuse, help the person see what abuse is… your friend might get defensive and deny any abuse but realisation can take time – let them know you will always be there, and mean it, regardless of what they decide. Try not to judge but believe them.
Remember it is OK to say: “I am not sure you know, that’s healthy” when discussing abuse or “No one ever deserves that” or “It’s never your fault.”
Acknowledge and realise it might take an awful lot of courage and bravery to tell you about the abuse she/he is experiencing… let them speak, listen and allow your friend the time to share their story without judgement.
Don’t place blame or guilt or shame
Don’t say “just leave” or “I don’t get why you are still with him/her” instead offer your concern for her safety… “I get worried thinking about what might happen…”
Don’t force people to leave by setting ultimatums such as “unless you split up, I don’t want anything to do with you…” the decision to leave takes incredible courage, takes time and can be extremely risky, and someone needs support in the first instance – be that support regardless of “leave” or “not leaving” decision.
Encourage them to create a safety plan for themselves, so that when it does “kick-off” at home, they can get to safety quickly. Info on safety planning is available here.
It also helps them to think about how they can increase their safety either within the relationship, or if they decide to leave.
Encourage your friend to seek professional support
Remind them that support, such as ourselves, is available when they’re ready. This support can be for relationships, individuals alone, and refuge. Our Contact details are here.
Let your friend know that no matter what…
decisions to leave or stay or other choices… you are there.
It can be very frustrating and difficult to see someone you care about in an abusive relationship… You cannot force someone to leave, but you can let them know you’ll help. The loss of friends, which happens often, often means people get even further isolated and thereby will struggle even more to seek out the support they need.
Learn more about why leaving is hard to do – click here.
Domestic Abuse is NOT a Private Matter
Just remember domestic abuse is not a private matter; it is harming and killing people – it needs to stop! All too often, people still say it’s other people’s relationships are not our business, and this is detrimental in the case of abuse at home. If you are aware someone is in danger, call the police, alternatively, utilise Clare’s Law (Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme) or contact Crimestoppers (to report Domestic Violence or Abuse anonymously.