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How to support someone experiencing domestic and family violence

How can I support someone?

Finding out that someone you know is being hurt is always hard. Perhaps you want to help but don't know what to do. The good news is that there are simple things you can do that can make a big difference.

When someone you know is experiencing domestic or family violence the way you talk and listen to them makes all the difference. You may be worried about doing the wrong thing, but it is important to know that it is OK to say something. Many people are glad to have the chance to talk about what they are going through. 

When someone is experiencing violence they often feel trapped and out of control. These feelings can be made worse if you try to force them to do what you think is best. It is very important that people are supported to make their own choices, when they are ready.

Here are some ways you can help:

  • In an emergency or if is someone is in danger now, call 000 immediately
  • Believe them and take their fears seriously. This is important no matter what you think of the person or people who hurt them
  • Listen without interrupting or judging
  • Never blame the person experiencing the violence for what has happened to them. Violence is never OK
  • Don’t make excuses for the person who has hurt them
  • Understand that they may not be ready or it may not be safe to leave. Don’t try to force them to do what you think is best
  • Remember that domestic and family violence is not just physical
  • Help in practical ways, with transport, appointments, child minding, or a place to escape to
  • Help explore options. You or the person you are supporting can call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732, chat online via our website or text 0458 737 732.
  • Some people may need the help of an advocacy service to explore options or contact 1800RESPECT. You can find an advocacy service in your area by searching our Service directory.

When someone you know is experiencing domestic or family violence the way you talk and listen to them makes all the difference.

What are the signs of domestic and family violence?

People experiencing domestic or family violence may:

  • Suddenly stop going out with no reason
  • Worry a lot about making a particular person angry
  • Make a lot of excuses for someone's negative behaviour
  • Have marks or injuries on their body that can’t be explained
  • Stop spending time with friends and family
  • Seem scared or wary around a particular person
  • Seem worried that they are being watched, followed or controlled in some way.

 A person whose behaviour is violent or abusive may:

  • Act in ways that make the other person scared
  • Put the other person down all the time
  • Make threats to hurt another person
  • Control
    • Where someone goes
    • Who they see and speak to
    • What happens to their money
    • How and when they can use their phone, car, or computer
  • Have a lot of rules about how the other person is allowed to behave
  • Get very angry when the other person doesn’t follow these rules.

How do I ask someone about domestic and family violence?

In the end, the only way to be sure there is a problem is to ask. This might feel hard, but there are things you can do to make it easier. 

You may be worried that the person experiencing the violence will get angry, upset or won’t want to talk. This may be the case, but often people are glad to be able to talk about what is happening.

Pick a quiet time to talk, when the violence isn’t happening. Let the person talk at their own pace, don’t push them to say more than they feel ready to.

If the person you are talking to doesn’t react in the way you hoped, don’t take it personally. Let it go for now, but let them know you are there if they need you.

It’s better to talk to them about the things you’ve noticed that make you worried, than to give your opinion.

You can try some questions like:

  • I'm wondering if everything is OK at home?
  • I noticed you have some bruises. How did that happen? Did someone do that to you?
  • I've noticed you seem frightened by your partner [or other person you suspect is hurting them]. Is that right? Is everything OK?

Give them the chance to speak in private. Be prepared to listen, but don’t force them to speak if they are not ready.