Responding to Domestic Abuse

It can be difficult to know how best to respond when someone confides in you, and tells you that they feel unsafe in their relationship and that they are experiencing domestic abuse.

Here is our guidance on how to offer up the best support to someone in need.

Believe what the victim is telling you – you may feel surprised, shocked or even find it difficult to understand how someone you know well is abusive towards their partner. It’s okay to feel this way – many abusers are masters at hiding their abusive behaviour but it’s important that you do not share your shock with the victim as it could be interpreted as disbelief.

Respond by Listening without judgement – you may feel that you need to understand why this is happening or why the victim is still with the abusive partner and there are many reasons why a victim may not be able to leave. It’s important to remember that the first step in leaving an abusive relationship is telling someone what is happening. How that person listens in that first conversation can either mean that the survivor/victim continues accessing support or withdraws as they felt that they were not believed, judged or their abusive partners behaviour has been dismissed with an excuse.

Important! Leaving a relationship is the most dangerous time for someone, it is really important they have support from a domestic abuse service in place to put a safety plan in place.

There are NO excuses for domestic abuse.

Refer to specialist support services – following listening the next most important offer of support is the telephone number or details of a specialist support service. The specialist service will be able to support the survivor/victim to leave the relationship (if they wish to do so), in the safest possible way. The service will support the survivor/victim in contacting the police (non-emergency call), if this is what they want to do. The specialist service can also discuss protection orders, child contact and criminal proceeding and put you in contact with solicitors who can offer legal advice specific to survivor/victim’s circumstances.

If you are worried about a friend or family member, you can use the Bright Sky app to find your nearest support service, as well as work through a questionnaire to help determine if your friend/family member is in an abusive relationship.

If you are supporting a male survivor/victim of domestic abuse and sexual violence, there may be specific ways you can help them, or specific barriers they may be facing as well as a number of specialist male helplines and support services available to offer support.

If you are supporting a member of the LGBTQI+ community survivor/victim of domestic abuse and sexual violence, there may be specific ways you can help them, or specific barriers they may be facing as well as a number of LGBTQI+ helplines and support services available to offer support.


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