I'm worried about my friend or family member’s safety

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Summary information

It can be hard if you have someone in your life you are worried about because of their relationship. It can be a confronting situation – is it an unhealthy or unsafe relationship? Should you say something? Should you do something? What can you do or say?

There are many resources available to provide helpful advice to trusted friends, family and bystanders. These include tips on how to recognise abusive relationships and, if you are a trusted friend, what you can do to help someone involved.

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Deep Dive

How to support someone experiencing domestic and family violence

What is coercive control?

Coercive control is behaviour which is ongoing and persistent, through which a partner tries to undermine the other person’s independence, confidence, sense of safety or ability to seek help.

Coercive control is particularly difficult to spot because it can take many forms.

Below are some prompts to help you think about what type of approach you can take to support your friend or family member that you’re worried about.

Watch: ‘What I See’: A domestic violence short film

3 Minute Read

Domestic violence: A guide to helping a friend in need

How can you help someone you’re worried about?

If you suspect someone you know is in an unhealthy or unsafe relationship, it can be difficult to know how to help.

Some approaches to help someone who may be experiencing verbal, emotional, financial, spiritual or physical abuse include:

  • Acknowledge that your friend/family member is in a very difficult and scary situation, and then be supportive and listen.

  • Recognise that verbal, emotional, financial and spiritual abuse can have as much of an impact on a victim’s overall health and well-being as physical violence.

  • Be non-judgmental.

  • Do not blame them or make excuses for their partner.

  • Assure the friend or family member that you believe them and that you take the situation seriously.

  • Suggest that they document the situation and record what is going on.

  • Respect their decisions and continue to be supportive, regardless of whether or not they end the relationship. They may not want to leave their partner, even if you think that’s what’s best for them.

  • Encourage them to participate in activities outside of the relationship with friends and family.

  • Help them develop a safety plan.

  • Suggest that they establish credit and/or an account in their own name.

  • Help them create an emergency fund.

  • Go with them to the police for assistance. For more information, call the police on 131 444, 24 hours, 7 days a week, or visit QPS’ domestic violence hub. If your friend or family member is unsafe now, call the police on Triple Zero (000).

  • Accompany your friend or family member to court hearings.

  • Encourage them to connect to a service or community organisation that can provide support and guidance. Some good places to begin include: 1800 respect, DV connect and Beyond DV.

Stay connected

People who control their partners often isolate the person from family and friends, ban them from seeing certain people or set time limits when they’re out with friends.

Social isolation has been linked to poor mental health and emotional distress, so it’s important to regularly pick up the phone or organise a catch-up with your friend or family member to provide support and listen.

Ask questions such as: ‘does that make you afraid when…’? You can follow up with: ‘that must be incredibly difficult when…’

Help build their self-confidence

Anyone who has witnessed or experienced abuse, violence or control in their household understands how it can impact a person’s mental health and erode self-worth. Often the perpetrator will degrade the person through language.

They may make disparaging comments about your loved one’s figure and appearance (in private or in public) or control how they dress or style their hair. It’s important to counteract these negative comments and tell your family member or friend about all of their good characteristics and traits.

Grab and Go

Rebuilding your self-esteem after abuse

Ensure they have financial support

Research shows that women, in particular, are more likely to experience financial abuse, and 98 per cent of women who report physical and sexual violence also suffer from financial abuse.

Financial abuse can be incredibly isolating and can make seeking help and safety extremely difficult. The abuser may stop them from working, control how they spend their money or limit access to money.

Grab and Go

Help with accessing payments and support services

Help with your banking: How NAB can help with domestic and family violence


What to do after your friend or family member separates from their partner

Be aware that this can be the most dangerous time for a woman. The situation may escalate and become incredibly dangerous for them, their children and even other family or supporters.

Many high-profile domestic violence cases have shown how dangerous this period can be. This is because this is the time when the perpetrator feels like they’re losing control.

Reach out – this is usually the time that they will need your support more than ever as they resolve their trauma and rebuild their life.

Deep Dive

5 Minute Read

Grab and Go

3 Minute Read

5 Minute Read

Watch: Purgatory: Award-winning short film on domestic violence


Explore services and organisations that may be able to help you and your friend or family member here.