If you know someone affected by domestic and family violence
Given the statistics about domestic and family violence, chances are that someone you know - your neighbour, co-worker, friend, sister or mother could be a victim of domestic and family violence. The following are some signs that might alert you that someone you know may be affected by domestic and family violence:
- She may have bruises or injuries or she has frequent "accidents" for which she gives vague explanations. These "accidents" sometimes cause her to miss work.
- Her partner controls her activities, the family's finances, the way she dresses or her contact with friends and family.
- She frequently cancels plans at the last minute or seems afraid of making her partner angry.
- Her partner ridicules her publicly or you sense volatility in his comments.
- Her partner seems overly attentive, remains constantly by her side or is watchful about who she talks to.
- You notice changes in her or her children's behaviour.
- She appears frightened or exhausted.
People often worry about how they will raise their concerns with the person. They can be very challenging conversations to have. The person for many reasons, may deny or minimise what is happening for them. Some people are afraid of intruding or hope that her problem will work itself out. Domestic and family violence often doesn't end unless action is taken to stop it.
Some common beliefs that stop people offering to help
I shouldn’t get involved in a private family matter.
Domestic violence is not just a family problem. It is a crime with serious repercussions for your friend, her children and the entire community.
She must be doing something to provoke his violence.
Problems exist in many relationships but using violence to resolve them is never acceptable.
If it was really bad, wouldn’t she just leave?
For most people the decision to end a relationship is not easy. Leaving a violent relationship is even harder. A woman's emotional ties to her partner may be strong, giving her hope that the violence will end. She may be financially dependent and on leaving she will likely face severe economic hardship. She may not know about resources or social and justice systems may have been unhelpful to her in the past.
Doesn’t she care about what’s happening to her children?
Your friend is probably doing her best to protect her children from violence. She may feel that the abuse is directed only at her and doesn't yet realise its effects on the children. She may believe her children need a father or she may lack the resources to support them on her own. The children may beg her to stay not wanting to leave their home or friends. She may fear that if she leaves she will lose custody of her children.
I know him and I really don’t think he could hurt anyone.
Many abusers are not violent in other relationships. They appear to be very charming and likeable in social situations whilst at the same time they can be extremely violent towards their partner in the privacy of their homes. This is often one of the barriers preventing many women from leaving as he isn't like it all the time or to other people. They may fear if they disclose the abuse to others that they won't be believed because he does appear to be such a nice guy. Abusers often use this against her telling her 'Nobody will believe you'. Abusers can come across as great guys to other people. Just because you've never seen him behave abusively, don't assume he doesn't.
How can she still care for someone who abuses her?
Chances are the man is not abusive all the time. He may actually show remorse for his violence, promising that he will change. Your friend understandably hopes for such changes. Their relationship probably involves good times, bad times and in-between times.
If she wanted my help she’d ask for it.
Your friend may not want to confide in you, feeling you may not understand her situation. She may even be ashamed of what's happening and that may make her seem aloof. Talk to her about abuse in a general way. Tell her you're concerned about women who are abused and that you do not blame women for the violence.
How you can help
For many women, friends and family are often the first people they talk to about domestic violence. It takes a lot of time, planning, help and courage to escape domestic violence. It is important for women to know that help is available from people who know and care about the situation.
Listen without judging her.
Tell your friend that you care and are willing to listen. If she is willing to talk, listen carefully and empathically in a safe place. Believe her. Never blame her for what's happening or under estimate her fear of danger. Let her know that no one deserves to be abused, beaten or threatened.
Allow her to make her own decisions.
As you listen try to understand the many obstacles that prevent her from leaving. It's usually very complex. Focus on supporting her in making her own decisions. If she is being abused then he is exercising a lot of control over her life. It is very important she is encouraged to make choices for herself even if it means staying with the abuser for now. It is often the first step towards freedom. Even if she leaves him and then goes back, don't withdraw your support.
Guide her to a specialist domestic violence support service.
Many women who have found freedom describe someone they knew (a neighbour, doctor, friend) offering support and referring them to a support service. Let her know she is not alone and that people are available to help her. Assure her that they will keep information about her confidential. Many women first seek the advice of marriage counsellors, psychiatrists, church and others. Unfortunately not all helping professionals are fully aware of the complexities of domestic violence and the safety issues she faces. If she resides in the Gold Coast, Eagleby or Beenleigh area, encourage her to contact the Domestic Violence Prevention Centre Gold Coast Inc. via email or phone or visit our website.
Help her make a safety plan.
Your friend may decide to remain in the violent relationship or return to the abuser after a temporary separation. Don’t pressure her to leave but let her know that you are concerned about her and her children. Encourage her to keep a diary of what’s happening to her if it is safe to do so. Help her think about steps she can take if her partner becomes abusive again. Make a list of people to call in an emergency. Suggest she considers giving you copies of personal documents such as Centrelink cards, passport numbers, birth certificates and school records in case she needs to leave quickly.
Help her find a safe place.
If your friend lives on the Gold Coast, Eagleby or Beenleigh region, help your friend contact the Domestic Violence Prevention Centre. If she lives outside this region she can contact DV Connect on 1800 811 811 or 1800 Respect for local service information.
If you see an assault in progress, take action.
Call the police on triple zero (000). Don’t assume that someone else has done so. These situations can be dangerous so whatever you do be sure to keep yourself safe.