With more and more cases of domestic abuse being reported each year, there is a high chance you may know someone who is being abused. Should you ever be concerned for a friend, family member, colleague or anyone else who may confide in you that they are being abused it is important to know how you can help. 

The most important thing you can do is to listen to her. Take care not to blame her. No one deserves abuse. It takes strength and courage to talk about abuse. She needs to make her own decisions, don’t expect her to do anything she is not ready to do. She needs your understanding and support. 

When helping someone who is experiencing abuse, remember: 

Fear 

She might be experiencing an overwhelming sense of fear for both herself and her children. This could be a fear of further violence, a fear of not being able to financially support herself, a fear of having nowhere to go, a fear of not being able to cope without her abuser. It is important to acknowledge that she is in a frightening and difficult situation and that she has your support whatever she decides to do. 

Blame 

Your friend is highly likely to be blaming herself for the abuse that is happening. Her abuser is likely to have told her it is her fault. She may believe that if she changes her behaviour it will stop her abuser getting upset and angry. It is important to tell her that the abuse is not her fault, that there are many women in the same situation and that there is never an excuse for violence and abuse. No one deserves to be abused or beaten. 

Safety 

It is very likely that her safety is at risk. Don't suggest anything that will put her or you at risk. Be patient and don't force her to do anything that she isn't ready to do. Let her make her own decisions. Do let her know that you are concerned for her safety and that of any children. Tell her about the National Domestic Violence Helpline (run in partnership between Women’s Aid and Refuge) on 0808 2000 247. 

Hope

Your friend might be experiencing a whole range of emotions. Encourage her to express her feelings. She may be aware that what she is experiencing is wrong, but she may still love her abuser and hope that he will stop the abuse. Don’t tell her to leave the relationship if she is not ready to do this. This is her decision. 

Remember leaving an abusive relationship does not mean that abuse will stop. Women are most at risk of harm when they try to leave. Plan safe strategies for leaving if this is what she wants to do. Be guided by her as to what may be safe and what may not be safe when planning. 

Trust

Acknowledge her strength in confiding in you and thank her for her trust. 

Let her know she has done the right thing talking about it. Give her time to talk but don’t force her to tell you things if she is not ready. Check if she has been physically harmed and offer to go with her to the hospital or GP. 

If she is ready, explore the available options with her. Help her to report the assault or access any services if this is what she wants to do. 

Shame

Your friend might be experiencing feelings of shame, guilt or embarrassment. Again, reassure her that she is not alone, that many women are in the same situation and it is not her fault. She has not done anything wrong. Remind her that she is coping well with a difficult and perhaps frightening situation.