How to offer support to a domestic abuse victim

One of the most difficult things for anyone to watch, is a friend, loved one or colleague suffer domestic abuse at the hands of their perpetrator, writes Sam Billingham.

Sam Billingham
Sam Billingham

Abusive relationships are extremely complex, and usually have several forms of abuse happening within them but the main aim of domestic abuse is power and control; the perpetrator doing all they can to gain and maintain that power and control over their partner.

Don’t ever underestimate the danger a victim of domestic abuse may be in.You can be supportive by listening, not judging. You can be supportive by listening, not prying. You can be supportive by letting them take their time to share the details.

You can be supportive by letting them share only what they are willing to. For many survivors, support is a crucial part of the healing process, and receiving a compassionate and validating response from friends and family can make a real difference.

The first instinct may be to protect but intervening directly can be dangerous, reaching out to them is the first step. Remember, you can call the Police if you see or hear an assault, don’t be a bystander and stand by watching; report via 999, 101 or live chat.

It can be really worrying when someone you care about is being hurt or abused but survivors who feel supported and encouraged may feel stronger and more able to make decisions. However, don’t be surprised if they seem defensive or reject your support, the might have difficulty trusting anyone after being abused.

There are many different ways to support a survivor of domestic abuse such as creating a safe space so you can speak to them in private.

Tell them you are worried about them, ask them if everything is okay at home.

Take them seriously, listen to them, believe them.

Reassure them it’s not their fault, nothing justifies domestic abuse.

Don’t judge them or ask why they haven’t left.

Remind them they aren’t alone.

Encourage them to reach out for support.

Give them time.

Everyone has the right to live a life free from abuse and violence but people sometimes need support to help them realise that the way they are being treated is not OK.

Asking the right type of questions can mean a lot, for example, I’m worried about you...I saw the way they looked at you and you seemed scared are you ok? I’ve noticed you seem a bit down, has anyone upset you? We haven’t seen much of you recently, is everything ok?

You are giving them the opportunity to open up to you and if they don’t open up straightaway, you have planted the seed for when they are ready.

Someone experiencing domestic abuse has been abused, brainwashed, controlled, and manipulated into believing everything is their fault and that no one will believe them, so the one thing you can give to them is time and patience.

Be there for them when they need you.

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