If you suspect a friend is experiencing family violence

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Everyone has the right to feel safe and respected in their relationships. However, intimate and family relationships can sometimes become imbalanced and lead to family violence. This can occur in many ways, including physical, emotional, economic, social, and spiritual abuse. If you know or suspect that your friend is experiencing family violence, here are some tips on how to help.

 

Reach Out

Starting the conversation can be difficult, but don’t let your fear prevent you from helping your friend. The world for many people experiencing family violence can be extremely lonely and scary, so sometimes just reaching out can make a lot of difference. You can bring up the subject with low barrier phrases such as “I’m worried about you because…” or “I’ve noticed some changes that concern me.”

 

Actively Listen

If your friend decides to speak with you, listen without judgement or suggesting solutions. Take the conversation slowly and allow your friend to open up at their own pace. Sometimes all you need to do is to let them know you’re there for them.

 

Believe Them

Often in family violence, the victim is the only person that experiences the darker side of the abuser. You may know the abuser and it may be difficult for you to learn that they could commit violence. Believe your friend and say it out loud. For a victim of family violence, finally having someone who knows and believes the truth can mean so much.

 

Help Find Support

It is not your job as a friend to fix the problem. However, you can offer to help find support services. A good place to start is to look online for helplines, social services, counsellors, or local support groups. Let your friend know that they are not alone and there are people available to help.

 

Help Them Stay Safe

Abusive relationships may be difficult to leave for a number of reasons. Whilst your friend is seeking support for their relationship, you can help them make a safety plan. Help them think about some steps they can take if the relationship becomes abusive again. This can include a list of people to call in an emergency or a safe place to go to if they need it.

 

Australia-Wide Resources

1800 RESPECT

24/7 sexual assault, family, and domestic violence helpline and online counselling.

1800 737 732 | www.1800respect.org.au

 

Relationships Australia

Relationship support services for individuals, families, and communities.

1300 364 277 | www.relationships.org.au

 

LifeLine

24/7 crisis support and suicide prevention service helpline.

13 11 14 | www.lifeline.org.au

 

Australian Federal Police

If you or your friend experiences an assault, call the police on 000.

 

About the Author

Emily Law is a lived experience speaker and mental health advocate based in Melbourne, Australia. She is particularly passionate about decreasing stigma surrounding depression, anxiety, family violence, eating disorders, and sexuality. Emily has a background in psychology and technology and is driven by a passion to help others.

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