Whether you’re a family member, friend, co-worker, parent, child or even a stranger, you can always help make a positive difference to someone experiencing abuse.
SEVEN GOLDEN RULES:
RULE 1: DON’T BE AFRAID TO REACH OUT to a loved one who you think might need help (see below for warning signs of abuse). Tell them that you’re concerned for their safety, want to help and are there for them if they should ever need you.
RULE 2: ACTIVELY LISTEN IN A NON-JUDGEMENTAL WAY. Even if you don’t understand or agree with the decisions they may or may not be making, try not to judge. Survivors need time, space and long-term help to build up their self-esteem and self-confidence.
RULE 3: AVOID COMMENTS WHICH BLAME OR BELITTLE the person in front of you. Perpetrators of violence usually put down their victims regularly and blame them for things out of their control, so self-esteem may already be low and self-blame an integral part of their thought cycle. What survivors need to know is that you are fully on their side and that you’re someone they can turn to without feeling bad about it.
RULE 4: STEER CLEAR OF ASSUMPTIVE QUESTIONS such as “Why don’t you just…?” Most women stuck in abusive households cannot easily “just” do anything. Nor can they “just” leave. Oftentimes a threat of violence upon children or extended family members is used to immobilise women. A large majority of survivors stay in abusive households to save the lives of others. They are / are made to feel responsible for so much more than just their own lives.
RULE 5: NEVER CONTACT OR PUBLICLY DEFAME THE ABUSER. Whilst it’s tempting to try and resolve the issue yourself, post negative things about them online or embarrass them in front of others, it may worsen the situation for your loved one and place you in danger too.
RULE 6: OFFER FURTHER PRACTICAL SUPPORT such as being their human ‘log book’ and safety plan back-up. Try and help your loved one make detailed notes of all incidents of abuse for future records, create a safety plan when they’re ready to do so, and begin saving up financial resources e.g. by helping them open a secret bank account and acting as a safe space should they be able to leave etc.
RULE 7: CONNECT THEM TO RESOURCES that can help both you and your loved one find more detailed information and guidance. Remember to do this in a safe space outside / away from the abuser e.g. use your home / phone / computer / iPad / a local library / internet cafe etc. to research information so that there are no digital traces on their own devices which may get your loved one into further trouble.
THE WARNING SIGNS
Domestic abuse and long-term violence is rarely as visible as black eyes and broken bones. So how can you tell when a loved one is in trouble and needs helps? Listen to your instincts and keep a close eye out for any of the following warning signs in which:
- The perpetrator constantly puts them down in front of other people.
- If they talk to other people, the perpetrator gets extremely jealous and possessive.
- The perpetrator is always checking up on them, calling or texting them and demanding to know who they’re with and where they’ve been.
- They apologise for the perpetrator’s behaviour and constantly make excuses for them.
- They frequently cancel plans at the last minute for reasons that don’t ring true.
- They’re constantly worried and anxious about upsetting the perpetrator or making them angry.
- They begin to give up things they used to enjoy such as spending time with friends or going out.
- They suddenly ‘disappear’ for a length of time and seem changed when they do appear again.
- Their appearance, eating habits, weight, capacities, quality of work, grades, speech flow etc. change dramatically. These could be signs of depression related to abuse.
- They have injuries they can’t explain or the explanations they give don’t make sense.
- You’ve witnessed for yourself arguments or incidents which have escalated to the smashing or hitting of things or ending in further threats of violence.