How do I support someone experiencing domestic or family violence?

Domestic and family violence are common – one in three women experience domestic or family violence in their lifetime. There are some practical things you can do to help.

This page contains:

What do I look out for? 

There are behaviours and signs that are common to people who are experiencing domestic and family violence. 

People experiencing domestic or family violence may:

  • Stop going out, with no obvious reason or, when asked, say they are not allowed to.

  • Appear anxious, depressed, tired or teary for no obvious reason.

  • Appear timid, wary, self-critical or self-conscious around their partner, or their partner seems rude or nasty to them.

  • Have injuries or time in hospital that raises your suspicion.

  • Keep justifying their movements or expenses.

  • State that they are being followed, monitored, stalked or controlled.

If you want to find out more please read, What is domestic and family violence?


In the end the only way to be certain that there is a problem is to ask the person about what is going on.

Of course, this can be difficult.

Family members or friends can try direct, gentle questioning such as:

  • Is everything ok at home?

  • I noticed those bruises, did someone do that to you?

  • Your partner seems to be making you frightened, is everything ok?

  • Are you ok?

Open up the space for listening, and give your friend or loved one opportunities to speak in private, but don’t pressure, don’t confront. Pressure and confrontation risk isolating your friend or loved one further.

What to do

Talking about abuse requires courage. Many victim/survivors fear that they will not be believed. It is very important when someone tells you they are being abused to take their fear seriously, even if you think their partner or ex seems charming, kind or nice. People who perpetrate domestic and family violence can be very good at presenting themselves in a positive way in public. This can be part of the pattern of abusive behaviour.

Here are some ways you can help your family member or friend:

  • Take their fears seriously.

  • Violence is never ok. Don’t blame the person or minimise the abuser’s responsibility for the abuse.

  • There are many barriers, difficult choices and often well-founded fears and concerns involved in leaving a violent partner – including an escalation in violence, homelessness and poverty. The victim/survivor may not be ready or it may not be safe to leave.

  • Remember that domestic and family violence involves more than the physical acts of abuse. Perpetrators target self-confidence through derogatory words and emotional abuse and try to ‘grind down’ the people they abuse. Recognise the strengths and resilience that have kept them and their children safe.

  • Help sort through options to get safe, whether leaving or staying with the abuser. See the safety planning page.

  • Help in practical ways – with transport, appointments, child minding, or a place to escape to. Find out about domestic and family violence services and offer to help with making an appointment.

  • Witnessing violence impacts on the whole family. If there are children involved, give them a sense of your care and support and seek appropriate help for them through a child or family service. Visit the Services & support map for information on services in your area.

  • Talk about protection orders in your state/territory.

Remember, domestic and family violence can be dangerous. Ring 000 if your family member, friend or their children are being harmed, or you are frightened they are about to be attacked. 

What to do when children are involved

There are many things you can do as a friend or family member when children are involved. This video has ideas and suggestions for minimising harm against children.

These resources were developed for 1800RESPECT in collaboration with:

Department of Human Services, Victoria

Melbourne University, General Practice and Primary Healthcare Academic Centre


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