What to do if you are worried that a neighbour, friend, or family member is experiencing domestic abuse.
Research shows that people are most likely to talk to a friend or family member first if they are experiencing domestic abuse. During lockdown, it may be that a neighbour or a work colleague is the only person who can see into the situation to offer any help or support.
This guide has been written to assist people who are worried that someone may be at risk from an abusive partner or family member. We all have a role to play in keeping people safe from abuse and violence.
Friends and Family FAQs
You may have noticed that something is not quite right in a neighbour, friend, colleague, or family member’s relationship. This might be that their partner or a family member is very controlling, that they seem anxious around them, or you may have noticed injuries or bruising.
Many people think that domestic abuse is physical violence within a relationship. Although that may be true of some cases, most involve controlling behaviour, jealousy, putting someone down and isolating them from people close to them. Many people who are experiencing abuse say that they feel that they are walking on eggshells. There may be no physical violence but that does not make the abuse less harmful or dangerous. Domestic abuse can occur in many different types of intimate or familial relationships; after a relationship has ended and when an adolescent is abusive to a parent. It can affect anyone.
It may be difficult for the person experiencing abuse to know what is happening. They may hope that the abusive person can change or put the behaviour down to increased stress or some other difficulty in their lives. Abusive people will often blame the non-abusive person for their behaviour and can convince people around them, friends, neighbours, and the community, that they are a good person, making it harder for the person experiencing abuse to get help.
Some of the warning signs are as follows:
- There may be arguments and shouting.
- They feel they are walking on eggshells and are worried about what their partner will think or say.
- Changes in behaviour, demeanor or outward appearance.
- Become anxious or withdrawn. You may see them less or only with their partner or the abusive family member.
- They may be inundated with emails, messages, or social media posts.
- May seem inseparable from their phone or insistent that they check it very often or check-in with their partner.
- They may become less outgoing and may avoid people and conversations.
- May socialise less and make excuses for not coming to meet-ups or taking calls.
- May be isolated from friends and family.
- They may be prevented from attending appointments, cancel last minute, need to leave early to get back to their partner.
- Always being accompanied to appointments, never allowed to do things alone, being ferried around or picked up.
- May never want to leave home or avoid going back.
- They may not have access to their own money or be unable to do the things they used to. They may have to ask permission to spend money or be given a restrictive allowance.
- Constant jibes, criticism, being called names or being blamed for everything.
- Injuries, bruises, and marks - Injuries may be difficult to explain or leave marks and bruises that don’t seem to match the explanation. People may try to hide their injuries with clothing or make-up.
- Damage to property.
- Animal abuse.
- Stalking and harassment, including unwanted gifts, messages, surveillance and following someone.
Many people will be reluctant to seek support, or they may confide in family members or friends in the first instance. Here are some things you can do if you are concerned or if someone close to you confides in you:
If you are worried about someone:
- Look out for warning signs of abusive behaviour.
- Check in with them regularly, a simple text message or phone call, if it is safe to do so.
- Try to find a safe time and place to talk honestly.
If someone close to you confides in you:
- Keep calm, reassure them that help is available.
- Avoid giving your opinion or making judgemental statements.
- Let them know that you are worried about them.
- Discuss the behaviour that concerns you. Avoid talking about the abusive person or calling them names.
- Ask if they feel safe or if they would like some help. You may be able to set up a signal or code word to raise the alarm.
- Give them IDAS contact details or make a referral with their consent.
What else can I do?
There are some things that you should avoid doing if someone confides in you:
- Ignore the warning signs.
- Pressurise them to talk if they do not want to.
- Overreact, panic, or look shocked.
- Promise more than you can give.
- Call the abusive person names or talk negatively about them. Focus on the behaviour that is of concern.
- Imply or suggest that the abuse could be their fault.
- Tell them what to do.
- Advise them to leave the relationship. This can put them at increased risk.
- Take decisions out of their hands.
If you are concerned that someone is in immediate danger you should always dial 999. You can dial 101 in a non-emergency.
If you would like to report anonymously you can contact Crime stoppers on 0800 555 111.
If they tell you that they would like to leave, you could offer to look through the safety planning information on the IDAS website with them or contact IDAS on their behalf.
How to contact us
Call our helpline on: 03000 110 110 (North Yorkshire and Barnsley) or 0808 808 2241 (Sheffield) or email us; [email protected]