Once you recognise the warning signs that a situation might be abusive, you can then identify how to respond in a way that feels appropriate and comfortable.
Talk privately with the victim, and express concern by saying you’ve been worried about them. Listen without judgment and if they don’t want to talk, then let them know that you’ll be there for them if they ever do want to talk.
TIP: ALLOW THE VICTIM/SURVIVOR TO MAKE THEIR OWN DECISIONS. PERSONAL STYLE, CULTURE, AND CONTEXT OF THE SURVIVOR’S LIFE MAY AFFECT THEIR REACTIONS. A VICTIM/SURVIVOR MAY NOT BE COMFORTABLE IDENTIFYING AS A VICTIM OR WITH NAMING THEIR EXPERIENCE AS ABUSE OR ASSAULT, AND IT IS IMPORTANT TO RESPECT EACH PERSON’S CHOICES AND STYLE OF COPING WITH THIS TRAUMATIC EVENT.
Listening without judgment may make them feel comfortable opening up, and if they do disclose abuse, let them know you believe them. You can reassure them that they are not alone, this is not their fault and that you are here to help. Some useful things to say might be, “No one deserve to be treated this way,” “You are not to blame,” or simply, “What’s happening is not your fault.”
TIP: REMEMBER THAT ALTHOUGH YOU MAY BE HAVING A STRONG REACTION TO WHAT HAPPENED, IT’S IMPORTANT TO FOCUS ON THE FEELINGS AND REACTIONS OF THE SURVIVOR RATHER THAN YOUR OWN. TRY NOT TO OUTWARDLY JUDGE OR CONFRONT THE ABUSER, AS IT MAY MAKE THE SITUATION WORSE OR MORE DANGEROUS FOR THE VICTIM, AND COULD PUT YOU IN DANGER TOO.
Offer options by letting them know free, confidential resources are available and that you are here to support them in whatever choices they make.
Resources can be found in the Domestic Violence Resource Centre – Referral Options Booklet – last updated July 2016. This has been developed as a resource for workers in the domestic and family violence sector. It includes contact details and further information on services in the family violence and related sectors around Victoria.
National hotline services include 1800 Respect – 24/7; Women’s Domestic Violence Crisis Service 1800 015 188 – both can offer you guidance and point you to local resources in your area that will help keep them (and any children that may be present in the home) safe.