Worried about a friend?
I’m worried about someone I know
The chances are you know someone who is experiencing domestic abuse. It might be your sister, neighbour, hairdresser, friend or colleague. If you know or suspect that someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse it can be really upsetting, and difficult to know what to do.
For most people, their first instinct is to try to ‘save’ someone from the relationship, and to tell the person being abused that they have to leave their relationship. Unfortunately it is almost never that simple.
There are lots of reasons why people stay with abusive partners, and leaving is often the most dangerous time for a woman and her children. It’s really important that you don’t put pressure on her to end the relationship; she can only do this when she is ready, and there are other ways you can help her until then.
It’s important that if you do suspect domestic abuse, you do not ignore it. People experiencing abuse are often scared, ashamed, confused and many don’t want to accept that their partner is abusive.
If you are worried about someone you know, get in touch with Scotland’s 24 hour Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline on 0800 027 1234 who can help you to talk through your options.
Why doesn’t she just leave? It can be very hard to leave a abusive partner.
- Your friend may be scared, as her partner may have threatened her or the children if she ends the relationship and the ongoing abuse may have her feeling fearful all the time.
- It can be embarrassing and difficult to talk about what is happening, she may blame herself for it or be ashamed about what has been going on.
- She will be experiencing lots of different emotions as she will love her partner but hate the abuse.
- She may feel guilty when thinking about ending the relationship and walking away from her partner and their problems. As women we are told we are meant to help people and fix their problems admitting to ourselves and others that we have failed can be a hard thing to do.
- It can also sometimes be difficult for the person experiencing abuse to see what is happening to them especially when there is no or little physical violence. They may be aware that something isn’t right but they may think they are imagining it or that it is them who has the problem
- She may be dependent on her partner and feel that things are hopeless and she has no options, as she doesn’t know where she can go, where she will get money etc. Women leaving abusive partners usually end up having to lose lots of practical things straight away (i.e. their home, belongings etc) but the things they can gain such as safety and more confidence aren’t guaranteed and may not happen quickly.
I think my friend is being abused, how do I bring up the subject?
It can take time for a woman to get to the point where she recognises she is being abused and even more time to get to a point where she feels safe to make decisions about what to do, you need to be patient with her.
- If you want to approach her do it in a sensitive way, such as ‘I am worried about you because…’ ‘I’ve noticed that since you met…… you no longer do……’
- Tell her what you’ve seen or heard and ask her how she feels don’t tell her how you think it should make her feel, don’t be nasty about her partner as this can make her feel she needs to stick up for them.
- Let her know she is not alone that you know how hard it can be to talk about abuse but you are there when she wants to talk
- Don’t judge her, let her know you believe her. Decisions women make are based on what they know when they have to make those decisions as relationships develop we learn more making women feel guilty for decisions they have made can build on feelings of guilt and shame.
- Let her know that what is happening isn’t ok and that it’s not her fault, she’s not to blame
- Don’t’ tell her she has to leave or end the relationship she has to come to this decision herself, telling her that her decisions are wrong can make her feel even more alone and make her less likely to talk to you
How can I help her to be safe?
- Decide together what to do to make things safer, this can involve making a safety plan. As part of this you could agree a code word between you that she can use if she needs help.
- Help your friend to feel good about herself, often domestic abuse leaves women feeling like they aren’t good at anything and can’t cope without their partner, letting her know that she is a good person and can do things for herself
- Stick with her don’t let her partner drive you away and further isolate her, try to help her to build her outside contacts and support networks
- Don’t speak to her partner about what is happening as this could put you and her in danger
Who else can help?
Let her know that there is help available, encourage her to speak to Women’s Aid, CAB, Doctor, Health Visitor or other support organisations.