If someone has told you that they are experiencing domestic violence, you may initially feel overwhelmed and unprepared to help. But there are things you can do to support the person.
What is domestic violence?
Domestic violence is when one person in a relationship hurts the other person (it doesn’t have to happen in the home). The violence and abuse can be physical, verbal, sexual, social, economic, spiritual and psychological.
How can I help someone who is experiencing domestic violence?
Listen – take the time to listen to what they are saying without judging. It’s important to the person that you believe what they are saying and take their fears seriously. The person is likely experiencing feelings of shame, guilt and loneliness. By simply sharing their story, they are reducing their feelings of isolation.
It’s not their fault – you can say to the person that it is not their fault. There is no excuse for someone to be violent or abusive.
Be available – giving your time and care is helpful. Don’t underestimate the value of your support. It can be a first step for getting help.
Specialised support – suggest that they reach out to an organisation who has the expertise to help someone experiencing domestic violence. You can help the person research the options, arrange an appointment, go with them, and check in on them after.
Don’t force them to do something – you should not force the person into taking action. From the outside, you may think the obvious answer is to leave, but the person may find it very difficult to do so for a wide variety of reasons. When you are discussing their options, they need to feel in control of the next steps.
Safety plan – if they are not ready to leave the person, you can help them develop a safety plan. You can consider the following questions: When will they activate the safety plan? Where will they go? What will they take with them? Who needs to be told when the plan is activated?
Emergency – if the person is in imminent danger, call 000.
Organisations who can help
The following organisations can provide specialist advice. Visit their websites to get more information and support.
- 1800 Respect – counselling and resources
- Kids Helpline – counselling and resources
- MensLine Australia – counselling and resources
- Relationships Australia – counselling and resources
- Respect – resources and support service information
- White Ribbon – resources and local support service information
SuicideLine Victoria counsellors can also help and are available 24/7, call 1300 651 251.
If it is an emergency, dial 000.