Know the signs and be informed about how you can help someone living with abuse.
Nearly 30% of women attending Safe Ireland domestic violence services said that they had heard about the service first from a family member or friend.
Supporting a Friend
Your friend or family member may be afraid of her partner and she might;
- Seem afraid or anxious to please her husband/boyfriend partner.
- Agree with everything he says and does and be afraid to correct him.
- Talk about his temper, jealousy, anger or possessiveness.
- Have bruises or injuries often, with the excuse of “accidents.”
- Miss work, college, parties or family events without explanation.
- Seem controlled and stopped from seeing family and friends.
- Rarely go out in public without her husband/boyfriend/partner.
Ways to support someone you know
It can often be very difficult for a woman to even recognise she is in an abusive relationship, never mind disclose it or talk to someone else about it.
If you think or know a friend, family member, colleague, neighbour is experiencing domestic violence you can contact a domestic violence support service for information.
However, if you suspect or know a friend, family member, colleague, neighbour is experiencing domestic violence, the following may be useful:
- Approach her in an understanding, non-blaming way.
- Explain to her that she is not alone and that there are many women like her in the same situation.
- Acknowledge that it takes strength to trust someone enough to talk to them about experiencing abuse.
- Give her time to talk; don’t push her to go into too much detail if she doesn’t want to.
- Tell her that no-one deserves to be threatened or beaten, despite what her abuser has told her. Nothing she can do or say can justify the abuser’s behaviour.
- Support her as a friend. Be a good listener. Allow her to make her own decisions, even if it means she isn’t ready to leave the relationship. This is her decision. I want to help. What can I do to support you?
- Ask if she has injuries or needs medical help. Offer to go with her to the hospital if she needs to go.
- Help her to report the assault to the Gardaí (police) if she wants to.
- Be ready to provide information on the help available to abused women and their children. Explore the available options with her. Go with her to visit a solicitor if she is ready to take this step.
- Help her find her nearest domestic violence refuge or support service and support her if she wants to contact them for support or consider going into a refuge.
- If she has children, talk to her about their safety. Encourage her to seek support from a domestic violence service or social worker if she feels the children are being affected by the situation or are at risk from abuse.
- Plan safe strategies (see Safety Planning). Let her create the boundaries of what is safe and what is not safe; don’t encourage her to follow any strategies that she is expressing doubt about.
- Offer the use of your address and/or telephone number for information and messages relating to her situation.
- Look after yourself while you are supporting someone through such a difficult and emotional time. Ensure that you do not put yourself or her 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.
What is Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence is the physical, emotional, sexual or mental abuse of one person by another within close, intimate or family relationship.
In most situations the abuser uses a range of abusive behaviours to gain and ensure power and control over the other person and these abusive actions often get worse over time.
In most cases women are the victims of domestic violence and male partners (husbands, boyfriends or ex’s) the perpetrators. Domestic violence can also occur between family members, between same sex couples and be perpetrated by women against men.
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SAFE Ireland are grateful to COSC and the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government for their funding assistance with our ‘Ways to Support a Friend’ awareness campaign.