I'm worried about my friend or family member’s safety
- Understanding relationship abuse
- Is someone you know being abused?
- How you can help someone experiencing domestic and family violence
One in six Australian women have experienced physical or sexual violence, or both, perpetrated by someone they know. This is a startling statistic that highlights the prevalence of abuse and violence in our society.
If you suspect that a friend or family member may be trapped in an unsafe or unhealthy relationship, it's natural to feel a mixture of concern and uncertainty about what to do or say. The thought of intervening can be daunting, and you may find yourself questioning whether it’s your place to get involved, or if the relationship is truly abusive.
For individuals who have experienced sexual assault, domestic or family violence, receiving the right support can be transformative. As a friend or family member, you have the power to provide that support.
Finding your way to this website and reading this page is a great first step. As you continue reading, you will arm yourself with more knowledge and access appropriate resources that can support you in guiding your loved one through their challenging situation.
Understanding relationship abuse
Also known as domestic violence or intimate partner violence, relationship abuse involves one partner exerting power and control over another. To understand relationship abuse, we must first recognise that it is more than physical violence, and that harmful dynamics can manifest in different ways. There are several reported forms of abuse, which include:
- Physical abuse: Using violence or threats to control a partner.
- Emotional and verbal abuse: Using words and behaviours to manipulate, coerce, control, or harm a partner.
- Sexual abuse: Forcing someone into sexual activities against their will or comfort, including reproductive coercion, where one partner restricts access to reproductive healthcare decisions.
- Financial or economic abuse: When a partner exerts control over finances, such as taking a partner’s pay, limiting access to money for basic needs, or sabotaging their financial stability.
- Digital abuse: Using technology and the internet to harass, stalk, intimidate, or control a partner, often acting as an extension of verbal or emotional abuse.
Domestic violence knows no boundaries, and can affect individuals regardless of their background, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or socioeconomic status. It transcends geographical location, income level, and education, making it a pervasive issue that can impact anyone.
Watch: ‘What I See’: A domestic violence short film
Is someone you know being abused?
Being able to spot the telltale signs of abuse and violence is the first step towards helping your friend or family member who may be experiencing such a situation. There are several indicators that can suggest someone is experiencing domestic and family violence.
- Display signs of fear or constant anxiety around their partner and always strive to please them
- Isolate themselves from social situations, including family and friends
- Experience feelings of depression or a loss of confidence
- Have a partner who is overly controlling, obsessive, or jealous
- Receive continuous phone calls or text messages from their partner to check up on them
- Have unexplained physical injuries with unlikely explanations for how they occurred
- Abruptly end phone calls when their partner enters the room
- Feel hesitant to leave children alone with their partner
- Suspect they are being stalked or followed
- Mention restricted access to money, having to justify every expense, or being forced to hand over their money
Above all, remain vigilant and aware of any changes in their behaviour or demeanour. Stay present, ready to lend your support wherever needed.
How you can help someone experiencing domestic and family violence
If someone you know is experiencing domestic and family violence, your support and understanding can make a significant difference in their journey toward safety and healing.
Here are some effective approaches to provide assistance and support:
- Start by acknowledging that your friend or family member is facing an incredibly difficult and frightening situation. Be there to support them and lend a listening ear.
- Recognise that verbal, emotional, financial, and spiritual abuse can be just as detrimental to a person's overall health and well-being as physical violence.
- Approach the situation with a non-judgmental mindset. Avoid blaming them or making excuses for their partner's behaviour.
- Assure your friend or family member that you believe them and take their situation seriously.
- Encourage them to document the abusive incidents and keep a record of what is happening.
- Respect their decisions and continue to provide support, regardless of whether or not they choose to end the relationship. Remember that they may have their own reasons for not leaving, even if it may seem best to you.
- Urge them to engage in activities outside of the relationship, such as spending time with friends and family, to foster a sense of support and connection.
- Help them develop a safety plan to protect themselves in case of emergencies.
- Suggest they establish their own credit and/or open a bank account in their name.
- Assist them in creating an emergency fund to ensure they have financial resources if needed.
- Offer to accompany them to the police for assistance. In case of immediate danger, call the police emergency line (Triple Zero - 000).
- Accompany your friend or family member to court hearings if necessary.
- Encourage them to connect with support services or community organisations that specialise in providing guidance and assistance.
If your response makes them feel supported and encourages them to talk about the situation, they may feel stronger and more able to explore their options and make decisions.
Being familiar with with local domestic and family violence services will help you provide greater support to your relative or friend. Remember, you don't have to navigate this alone – there are dedicated experts and organisations ready to lend a hand. These organisations can offer information, advice, and even practical help, such as safety planning or access to shelters.
Here are some examples of the support services that are available:
- DV Connect (1800 811 811) is an organisation that provides crisis support and counselling, as well as a women’s refuge service assisting women and children affected by a domestic violence incident to obtain placement into crisis care.
- 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) is a telephone helpline for friends and family to report if someone they know is experiencing domestic violence.
- Relationships Australia QLD (1300 364 277) is an organisation that provides relationship support and advice to individuals and families across Queensland.
- Mensline (1800 041 612) is a national telephone and online support, information and referral service for men.
- Immigrant Women’s Support Service (07 3846 3490) offers support to immigrant and refugee women from non-English speaking backgrounds and their children who have experienced domestic and/or sexual violence.
- Women’s Legal Service (1800 957 957) and Legal Aid QLD (1300 65 11 88) provides free legal advice and legal support services to victims of domestic violence, including in relation to applications for a Domestic Violence Order, Children’s Court matters and Family Law matters generally.
Find more services and organisations that may be able to help you and your friend or family member. By exploring these resources, you can find the help you need and connect with professionals who can guide you or your loved one through their options with expertise and care.