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Warwickshire Domestic Abuse Helpline Mon-Fri 9am-9pm Sat 8am-4pm 0800 408 1552 Phone

Friends or family

Do you think you know someone suffering from domestic abuse?

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Friend or Family

Recognising the signs

People who are being abused may:

  • Seem afraid or anxious to please their partner.
  • Go along with everything their partner says and does.
  • Check in often with their partner to report where they are, and what they’re doing.
  • Receive frequent, harassing phone calls from their partner.
  • Talk about their partner’s temper, jealousy, or possessiveness.

People who are being physically abused may:

  • Have frequent injuries, with the excuse of ‘accidents’.
  • Frequently miss school, work, or social occasions, without explanation.
  • Dress in clothing designed to conceal injury i.e long sleeves in the summer or sunglasses indoors.
  • Have a smashed home, for example holes in walls or broken furniture.

People who are being isolated by their abuser may:

  • Be restricted from seeing family and friends.
  • Rarely go out in public without their partner.
  • Have limited access to money, credit cards or the car.

People who are being abused may:

  • Have very low self-esteem, even if they used to be confident.
  • Show major personality changes (e.g an outgoing person may become withdrawn).
  • Be depressed, anxious or suicidal.

Practical help

On a practical level you could:

  • Agree a code word or action that your friend can use to signal they are in danger, and cannot access help themselves.
  • Offer to keep copies of important documents and other items for them. That way, if there is a need to leave in a hurry, they will have access to important belongings.
  • Together or on your own, find out information about local services that may be able to help, such as Stonham for help. Offer any practical help you are able (and feel comfortable) to give, such as the use of your telephone or address for information or messages, keeping spare sets of keys and overnight bags for emergencies.
  • Encourage them to break the isolation. One of the most effective tools for abusers is isolating the person from family, friends, co-workers or any type of support system. Help your friend contact local specialist domestic abuse agencies, like Stonham.
  • Encourage them to take threats seriously. Express your concern for their safety and never minimise threats made by the abuser, they may already be doing this themself. Remember, however, that an abused woman is in the most danger when she has decided to leave. Respect her judgement around when is the right time to leave. Leaving such a situation is a process, and the time must be right and safe.
  • Evaluate how they cope. Faced with violence and abuse, many individuals develop ways of coping that are themselves destructive. Your friend will need support in re-evaluating these negative coping mechanisms, and considering how to adopt more constructive ways of coping. The last thing they will need is another reason to be hard on themself, so real encouragement will be required.

Dos & Don’ts

How to help


  • approach them about the abuse in a sensitive way, for example by saying, ‘I’m worried about you because…
  • believe what you are told: it will have taken a lot for them to talk to you and trust you.
  • take the abuse seriously. Abuse can be damaging both physically and emotionally, and is very destructive to someone’s self-confidence. Their partner could be placing them in real physical danger.
  • focus on safety: talk to them about it and how they could best protect themselves.
  • help them to recognise the abuse and understand how it may be affecting them. Recognise and support their strength and courage.
  • help them to understand that the abuse is not their fault and that no one deserves to be abused, no matter what they do.


  • blame them or ask judgemental questions such as, ‘What did you do to make them treat you like that?’ or ‘Why don’t you just break up with them?’
  • focus on trying to work out the abuser’s reasons for the abuse. Concentrate on supporting the abused person and discussing what they can do to protect themself.
  • be impatient or critical of them if there is confusion about what to do, or if they say that they still love the abuser. It’s difficult for anyone to break up a relationship, and especially hard if they are being abused.
  • don’t maintain a friendship with both the victim and the abuser. This part is hard for a lot of people, but the truth is that if you try to support both parties, you’re not going to be much help to either. The abused needs to be able to talk to someone who believes, who will not apply pressure to ‘see it from the other person’s point of view’, and who would never encourage the abused person to get back together with the abuser. Placing yourself in the position of investigator or mediator is not going to help the situation.

Be safe and cover your tracks!

See our guide on how to cover your tracks and stay safe on the internet.

If you are in an abusive relationship and your abuser has access to your computer, it is important that you take precautionary steps to hide your internet activities. If you know that your abuser has access to the computer that you use, the best safety measure to take is to use another computer.

Learn how

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