How can you confirm that someone you know and love is a victim of domestic abuse? What should you – and shouldn’t you – do? Here are 14 points to take into account when you suspect domestic violence.
Three-time premiership footballer and Brownlow Medalist, Jimmy Bartell, recently helped launch the Support a Friend campaign to help people recognise the signs of intimate partner violence.
With 1 in 4 women in Australia having experienced physical or sexual violence from their spouse, partner, boyfriend or date, we can’t be lax when looking out for signs of domestic violence and abuse.
Here are a few things you need to know:
What is Abuse?
There are arguments, and then there is abuse. The latter pertains to a situation in which one person is dominating another through physical harm, emotional criticism, demands, threats or sexual intimidation. All of these forms of abuse are harmful and unacceptable, but unless you are in the relationship and see it with your own eyes, how do you know it’s going on?
What Are Some Signs Of An Abusive Relationship?
- Your friend is increasingly anxious, stressed, on-edge or afraid when it comes to their partner. They are cautious about displeasing them and try to prevent this occurring at all costs.
- Your friend is retreating from you and others. It seems ‘free time’ and independence from their partner is not 'permitted', and they keep all communication – including phone calls or catch-ups – short. If their partner is in the room, everything changes dramatically when it comes to their behavior or conversations. Even restricted and uneasy body language can be a telltale sign.
- Your friend tells you they have been hit, verbally abused, sexually intimidated, threatened or emotionally victimised at one point in her current relationship. Even if it was ‘only once’ or ‘ages ago’, one hit or push is never okay.
- Your friend's partner is driving their finances, schedule or decisions. If your friend either has to go without – events, catch-ups - due to lack of control over his or her funds, something is wrong. This contributes to victim's of domestic violence losing their confidence and independence.
- Your friend's partner speaks to them in a way that is not loving or equal. There is a lack of respect and a definite hierarchy in the relationship when it comes to who is dominant. If language and dialogue is downright disrespectful and abusive - that is a major red flag.
- Evidence of physical abuse comes to your attention. Unexplained bruises, cuts, sprains, concussions and so on all ring alarm bells very loudly. Especially if your friend is trying to cover them up.
- Children involved in the relationship also show all of the above traits including fear, anxiety, visible evidence of abuse, when they are around the suspected perpetrator.
Should You Get Involved?
Silence can be deadly when it comes to domestic violence. Your support could save a life. Choose sensitivity when approaching your friend and prepare to be rebutted. This is a highly personal situation and they may fear retribution or the dissolution of the relationship and life they know.
Here are some other pointers for addressing domestic violence when it happens to someone you know:
- Don’t be critical. Express concern, as you have to keep in mind that trusting anyone may be difficult. The most important thing you can do is listen to them and believe in them.
- Build the victim's confidence in the situation and assess how it is affecting that person's children and their life. Reassure them that they have help and support to better their lives and that of their family.
- Retain regular contact and do your research on intervention orders and the services available to the victim. Do the groundwork for if she or he can't, but acknowledge that it is their decision and anything too overbearing may scare them off getting help.
- Remind the victim that all support services are there to provide information, not to force them to make a decision.
What Not To Do:
- Never blame the victim for the abuse. They are likely already getting this message from the perpetrator. They need a friend and support, not more guilt. A victim is never to blame for domestic violence.
- Don’t spend too much time working on the reasons this is happening. Simply highlight the reality and the many ways it is wrong and unacceptable, not to mention unsafe for all involved.
For more help and information, visit:
National Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Helpline (24 hours):
1800 737 732
1800 551 800
Child Abuse Report Line:
13 14 78
Information in this article was gathered from the Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria.