With domestic abuse affecting at least 1 in 4 women in Northern Ireland, there is a chance that one day someone you know will experience some form of abuse from a partner. Whilst we understand that this is either difficult or not very pleasant to think about, it is unfortunately reality. As part of our vision to eliminate domestic abuse from our society we strive to educate the general public on the many types of abuse, what they might look like in a friend, family member or colleague, and what can be done to help.
Domestic abuse is underpinned by control; perpetrators seek to control their victims often by isolating them from friends and family, making them feel shameful or that the abuse is their fault, or making them fear the consequences of what might happen if they disclose the abuse to someone. Because of this, victims often find it incredibly difficult to talk about what is happening, either because they are scared, ashamed or perhaps don’t recognise that what their partner is doing is abusive.
However, if you are concerned about a friend, family member or colleague, there are some basic steps you can take to provide them with support. The first thing to remember is that they may not want to talk about it with you, and this is okay. You must never pressure anyone to discuss something they don’t want to, even if you think it’s best that you know. If they are experiencing abuse, it is likely that their emotional wellbeing is already suffering, so it would be unhelpful to put more pressure on them by insisting they talk to you. If you approach the topic and are met with anger, upset or defensiveness, the best thing you can do is reassure them that you are here for them. You could say something like “It’s okay that you don’t want to have this conversation, but I want you to know that I am here to support you if or when you do want to talk”. You could also suggest that they seek support from a service such as Women’s Aid or talk to someone at the Domestic & Sexual Abuse Helpline.
If someone you know actually discloses to you that they are experiencing abuse, it’s really important that you respond in a way that makes them feel safe and supported. Below we have a list of dos and don’ts to bear in mind:
It is so vital to react in a way that makes your friend, family member or colleague feel as safe as possible. It is also very important that you look after yourself whilst supporting them through such a difficult time. Make sure that you seek help too if you need it, from other friends, family members or professional services.