Are you concerned about a friend or family member?
In a respectful partnership, arguments or disagreements will occur, but both partners feel free to state their opinions, make their own decisions and feel safe to say no to sex.
In an abusive relationship, one partner controls the other through physical harm, criticisms, demands, threats, or sexual pressure.
For the victim and her children, this experience can be very frightening and dangerous.
Whether you know for sure or just have a ‘gut feeling’ that someone you know is being subjected to Domestic or Family Violence – your support can make all the difference
Domestic violence in relationships is mainly committed by men against women and whilst a small number of women are abusive towards their partners, even fewer still of these involve physical abuse. People in same sex relationships also experience domestic violence, and so this guide is intended in support of both female and male victims.
For the purposes of this information we refer to the victim as ‘she’ and ‘your friend’.
The following are some signs that might alert you that someone you know may be affected by domestic and family violence:
- You notice changes in her or her children’s behaviour. She appears frightened or anxious.
- She seems afraid or nervous around her partner, or needs to constantly ‘keep the peace’.
- She may have unlikely injuries or bruises or is often ‘not well’ or having ‘silly’ accidents.
- She may miss work or cancel arrangements with short notice or vague excuses
- Her partner controls all aspects of her life: – finances, friends, work and social life.
- Her partner may also be overly possessive or jealous
- Her children seem fearful or on edge in his company or at the mention of his name…
It can be hard to know what to do for the best , and often people are reticent to bring up what is often thought to be a very ‘private, family or intimate’ matter.
At DVConnect we believe domestic and family violence is a wide reaching community concern – for specialist advice before approaching your friend or family member we encourage you to call Womensline 1800 811 811
Common attitudes about Domestic and Family Violence:-
It’s a family matter and none of my business…Domestic and family violence affects the physical health and emotional wellbeing, the learning capacity and productivity, as well as the ability to earn a living for thousands of women across Queensland every day. For many children growing up in the midst of domestic violence – the physical and emotional impact will last a lifetime…
If she wanted my help she’d ask for it…Many victims of domestic and family violence feel embarrassed or too ashamed to confide in anyone. They have often lost their confidence and may find it hard to trust anyone – including their family or close friends. They may have had poor experiences with authorities in the past or be worried about what could happen to them and their children. Let her know that you care for her and that you are there if she needs to talk.
She must be doing something to provoke him…Problems occur in most relationships from time to time – but violence or controlling behaviour is never acceptable as a means to resolve conflict. People have choices as to how they react to challenges and often you can see this play out when the perpetrators are very selective and can control their behaviour in certain circumstances.
If it’s that bad why doesn’t she just leave…From the outside, it may seem easy to leave, but it is very important for friends and family to try to understand why and just how difficult it actually is…particularly if there are children involved. Your friend or family member may have lost confidence and be experiencing a range of fears and possibly uncharacteristic traits or beliefs. She may feel isolated and at risk of being ostracised, she may still be hoping ‘that if she does this or that he’ll change’.
She may be face real financial and emotional hardship if she leaves and will need support, Never underestimate that she may be in real fear for her or her children’s personal safety. Statistics support the fact that women are at increased risk of physical danger at the time of and immediately following separation.
How can she still care for him… Your friend or family member may still feel she loves him and be holding onto hopes that things will get better, or she may be convinced she has no alternative but to put up with her current situation
Her partner may not be abusive all of the time, or he may have shown remorse and promised to change. Don’t be critical if she says she still loves her partner, or if she leaves but then returns to the relationship. The most important thing you can do is to listen without judging, respect her decisions and help her with information about support services and to find ways to become stronger and safer.
What about the children… Observing children affected by domestic or family violence can have a profound effect on those that love or care for them. Their mother will probably feel she is doing her best to protect her children or doesn’t realise that although they may not be directly subjected to the abuse they are still victims of it. She may believe that children need a father around or she may lack the resources or wherewithal to support them on her own. The children may love their school or mates in the neighbourhood and she may feel guilty at the thought of wrenching them away from their familiar surrounds.
Her partner may have threatened to hurt them or ‘get custody’ if she tries to take them away and she may have a genuine fear that she could lose custody of her children.
I know him and he doesn’t seem like he would hurt anyone.
Many perpetrators of domestic and family violence can be very manipulative, and may show no signs of the controlling or violent behaviours they use in their homes, in other relationships or settings. They might be quite charming, the life of a party or quite serious and gentle in social or work situations. This is one of the most difficult things for victims to overcome, as they often fear if they disclose the abuse to other people who know her partner that they won’t believe her. Remember that domestic and family violence occurs in all cultures, in all socio-economic groups and demographics and in all age groups.
‘My family and friends didn’t think it was “that bad” because he only physically hit me once. But the put – downs and manipulation were so much worse, the way he controlled my life. I really wish my family could have understood how horrible it was.’ – Kate
How can you help
If you are a victim, just admitting it is happening and talking about domestic violence can take a lot of courage.
The best thing you can do to support her in her journey is to listen without judging, find information or practical help for her when you can…here are some tips which women who have survived domestic or family violence said were helpful for them…
Listen without judging her... Let your friend know you care, listen without interrupting and don’t tell her what she should do.
Reiterate that no one deserves to be bullied, threatened or subjected to physical violence. Don’t suggest she is to blame for what’s happening and never underestimate her fear of danger, it is an important indicator of the scale of her situation.
Let her make decisions for herself…There will be a lot going on your friend’s life and in her mind, and she may not be able to make decisions as clearly as she might of in the past. It is important that you recognise that part of the process for to rebuild her confidence and to ultimately heal is that she will need to work things through and make decisions for herself. Focus on supporting her and understand that even if she decides to leave, she could return to her abusive partner, on more than one occasion before she finally breaks free…
Refer her to specialist services…Many women do not know how widespread domestic and family violence is in our community, they believe they are in a unique situation and that no one understands … Unfortunately in Australia 1 in 3 women will be subjected to domestic or family violence and 1 in 4 of our children will witness it.
Let your friend know that she is not alone and that there are organisations that understand and can provide her with specialised help and support.
DVConnect Womesline can provide referral to local or regional specialised domestic and family violence services, which can provide face to face counselling, advice and support.
We also provide advice and information and support around a whole range of related matters such as Domestic Violence Prevention Orders and court support.
Critically – we can provide emergency intervention, transport and accommodation for women in immediate threat of danger. We can also assist with safe care of pets if necessary.
DVConnect Womensline provides information on all matters related to Domestic and Family Violence in Queensland, we can connect you with the right services in your area. Make the call 1800 811 811
Help her develop a safety plan…Your friend may decide to stay… or return after attempting to leave. If she does, the best you can do is to help her develop a safety plan. Depending on the level of violence you might encourage her to plan for future situations, by keeping copies of all important documents somewhere safe, or a change of clothes packed and kept somewhere she could access it in a hurry – such as at a friend or family members home…Agree on a code word or signal that tells you she is in danger and what steps you might take in the event of being alerted in this way. For more tips on safety click here ( link to Safety)
Understand that she could be at the greatest risk of physical danger while she’s trying to leave.
‘Our neighbour was stalked by her ex boyfriend. He’d watch her from outside the house. We sometimes heard him yelling at her in the backyard. We weren’t sure if calling the police would make things worse. We asked her about it. We agreed to ring her if we saw him watching her house, so she could get her brother to come over. If we thought we heard her ex in her house, we’d ring her and she’d use a certain word as a signal for us to call the police.’
Understand what ‘refuge’ is… If your friend’s partner is physically violent, the risk of the level of violence escalating increases significantly during the process of trying to leave or in the period immediate following her escape.
Emergency intervention, transport, accommodation or refuge can be arranged by contacting DVConnect Womensline on 1800 811 811
The location of these safe places is kept confidential, and it is vital that it is understood there may be many women and children whose lives depend on their position remaining a secret. For more information about refuge go to About Women’s Refuge click here
Looking after yourself…Supporting a friend or relative who is being abused can be stressful. You need to look after yourself and may need to get support too.
Remember that letting her know you’re stressed, frustrated or disappointed will not help her, and may only make things worse. Remind yourself that your support is important, and will have a positive impact on your friend, don’t underestimate the value of your support.
But remember that you are not responsible for the abuse, and you cannot ‘rescue her’.
If you start to feel afraid or ‘out of your depth’ – make the call to DVConnect 1800 811 811