It can be hard to know what to do when we think a friend is involved with someone who doesn’t treat them well.
Abuse can feel like a big word but the subtle ways a person mistreats their partner can start out small and get much worse over time.
It’s important to check in on a friend if you think they might be experiencing abuse.
Remember, you don’t need to be 100% sure that what they are experiencing is abuse. If it feels wrong it probably is and there are ways you can support your friend.
Reaching out to a friend we are worried about can be difficult, especially if it feels like they’ve been distant recently.
Here are some ways to show you are there for them during this difficult time:
Check in on them – Text them to say hi. Ask them if they’re ok. Let them know you’re there.
Talk to them in person – Don’t talk to them about your concerns over text. It could put them in danger if their partner looks through their phone.
Speak to someone they are close to – If you don’t think you’re close enough with them to approach the conversation you can speak, in confidence, to someone they trust.
If a friend or someone close to you opens up about how their partner is treating them and it sounds like abuse there are ways you can support them.
- Give them time to talk, and don’t push them to go into too much detail if they don’t want to share.
- Try to understand and take care not to blame them.
- Tell them that they are not alone and that there are many others who are in similar situations.
- Acknowledge that it takes strength to talk about what they are going through.
- Tell them “I believe you”, “It’s not your fault”, and “What they are doing to you is not ok.”
- Tell them that no matter what their partner says, no one deserves to be manipulated, threatened, or criticised 24/7. Nothing they can do or say can justify their partner’s behaviour. There are no excuses for treating someone abusively.
- Tell them that you understand they are in a frightening and very difficult situation.
- Encourage them to express their feelings, whatever they are.
- Allow them to make their own decisions.
- Don’t tell them to leave the relationship if they are not ready to do this. This is their decision.
There are also a number of ways you can support them practically. You could for example, add the Women’s Aid 24hr National Freephone Helpline 1800 341 900 to your contacts in case your friend ever needs it.
Make sure they have credit so they can make calls in an emergency and add your card to their taxi app so they can book one in an emergency.
You can agree on a code word that they can use with you in case they are in danger. You could also let them leave an emergency bag at your home that they can collect if they need to as well as offer to use your telephone number instead of theirs for important messages.
If they need to go to the GP, the Gardaí or to see a solicitor you could offer to accompany them.
Remember to look after yourself while you are supporting someone through such a difficult and emotional time.
Make sure that you don’t put yourself into a dangerous situation; for example, do not offer to talk to their partner about your friend or let yourself be seen by their partner as a threat to their relationship, they could isolate your friend from you.
You can speak to someone on Women’s Aid’s free and confidential Instant Messaging Service or call the Women’s Aid 24hr National Freephone Helpline 1800 341 900, open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.