In your family
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Knowing your friend's business

Here's how you can help a friend who is being abused, or who is living in a family where there is abuse or domestic violence.

Keep in mind that supporting someone who's living with abuse is difficult. Remember that even people with lots of power, like the police and courts, can find it hard to protect people from abuse, so this is not a situation that you can "fix" on your own. You may need to talk to an adult.

What to Say to a Friend

  • Tell them you are worried about them and ask if they are okay for example, say 'I've noticed you seem really down lately, is everything ok?

  • Let them know that you believe them by telling them that, or saying something like "I'm glad that you told me"
    "When Anna first told me I was like, 'what? Your family?' I always thought that her family was the coolest. First off I almost went 'no way', but then I saw the look on her face, so I just went 'Anna, that's horrible. I had no idea'".

  • Reassure them that the abuse is not their fault by saying, "no one deserves to be treated like that" or "I think that what is happening is so wrong!"
    "When Dale started staying away from school, and coming in with bruises and stuff, I said to him one day 'this is crap, man. No-one should have to put up with that crap."

  • Don't push them to tell you details about what's happened unless they really want to. Some people may be dying to talk about it, while others may feel upset by having to re-tell the details. Also, you may find it too full on to deal with. Also, dont gossip with other friends about what your friend has told you, unless you think they can help. Getting help from an adult or someone else who can help is a good idea though, and isn't gossiping.

  • Let them know that this happens to other people too. Other young people have dealt with this in their families - they are not alone.

  • Let them know there are people who can help. Encourage them to tell an adult or someone else who can help. If they aren't ready for this, let them know that there are anonymous help-lines, like Kids Help Line, that they can talk to. (For a list, see 'What services can help me?' You could even offer to call a support service and get information for them, or you could offer to go with them to talk to an adult or a service.
    "I hate to think that my girlfriend has to go through all that. I'd always thought that her mum's boyfriend was a pig, and when I found out what he'd done, I wanted to smash him! My girlfriend got upset and said 'you'll just make it worse'. Eventually she decided to go to the cops, but chickened out at the last second, so asked me to call them for her."

  • Get help for yourself too. Helping someone in this situation can be stressful for you too. Talk to an adult that you trust, like a parent or friend's parent, or a teacher, or even a support service like Kids Helpline, or other services. You don't have to tell them which friend you were helping.

What if my friend won't get help?
If your friend doesn't want to tell anyone or get any help, it can be really hard for you especially if you're worried about what might happen. Maybe you want to be a good friend and you want to look out for them, but you don't want to break their trust, so what can you do?

Here's one story about what someone did when her boyfriend wanted to keep it a secret.
'My boyfriend was in a really bad situation at home and we'd talked about it heaps. He hadn't told me all the details but he was always really down about it. He hardly ever invited people over to his house, including me - once I turned up there as a surprise and he hurried me to go out instead. I could tell something was seriously wrong.
I asked him about it and he told me that his Dad is always getting angry and that he has bashed his mum a few times. He hit my boyfriend once too when he tried to stop his dad. I suggested telling a teacher or the school counsellor, but he said no, he didn't want to get anyone in trouble and he was worried he'd get taken away from home. It was hard 'cos I was worried, but he trusted me, and anyway I could understand him being afraid of what would happen. He just wanted his dad to treat his mother and sisters better.
One night I rang him at home and his voice sounded really strange, really different. I heard his dad yelling and my boyfriend said he had to get off the phone. I got worried that he could be hurt too. The next day I told him how I felt and said I was going to ask my mum what she thought, without telling her who it was about. He said that was okay. Well, it all came out when I spoke to mum because I got upset and she guessed it was my boyfriend. But actually she was so good, she invited him over, and said to him that if there's ever trouble at home he and his sister can come over to our place. At first he didn't want to admit it, but then he ended up talking to mum about his family and we talked about what else he can do, like calling the police. My mum offered to speak to his mum to see if she needs some help, and he said he would think about it.
Now I think he's glad that he has spoken to someone about it and we can try to help him deal with it.

To find out more about what your friend could do about the abuse, see 'Steps to working it out'.

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