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How can I cope?

As part of Findaway we will be working with people who have supported their family and friends through controlling and dangerous relationships to put together helpful information and resources for anyone worried about someone else's relationship. We will be adding to these resources to this page as we develop them.

 

In the meantime, take a look at some of our suggestions for helpful things to say if someone you know is being controlled, scared, or hurt by someone they love. 

1. How can I look after myself?

2. How can I maintain a relationship when...?

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What can I say?

There are many reasons someone might be reluctant to speak up about abuse; they may blame themselves, be fearful of the consequences for themselves and their children, be afraid to bring shame on their community or family, or perhaps still love their abuser and want to protect them. These are just some of the things that might prevent someone from sharing what’s happening, it also might mean if you spot abuse and address it with someone, they may deflect your support and deny that anything is wrong.  

If someone does share their experiences with you, how you respond can make a huge difference to them. We know that many people have to speak out multiple times before they get a supportive response. Once someone has received a supportive response they are more likely to speak out again, and they might go on to access more support. 

We want the first response to always be a supportive one. Here are some tips on how to respond if someone does open up to you: 

Be patient

Usually it takes women who experience domestic abuse several years to seek help. This means patience is key when expressing your concerns. Don't take it personally if they don’t immediately confide in you, make sure they know you are always there if they do need you, and trust that when they can, they will speak up. 

Listen & believe

If someone discloses abuse, or worrying behaviour, to you, make sure you validate their experience. Brushing it off or trying to reassure them that it’s a one-off will make it harder for them to talk about it. Trust what they say and let them know that you believe them.

 

Simply giving someone space to talk, and listening to how they're feeling, can be really helpful in itself. If they're finding it difficult, let them know that you're there when they are ready. 

Try not to make assumptions. Your perspective might be useful to them, but try not to assume that you already know what has happened, or what will help. 

Be calm

Even though it might be upsetting to hear that someone you care about is being treated that way and at risk of harm, try to stay calm. This will help the person you care about feel calmer too, and show them that they can talk to you openly without upsetting you. 

What can I do?

There are lots of practical things you might be able to do support someone, if that’s what they want you to do. For example: 

  • Look for information that might be helpful and be ready to provide information on organisations that offer specialist support. Offer to sit with them and explore the available options. Go to Who else can help for some ideas on where you can look.

  • Ask if they have suffered physical harm. If so, offer to go with them to a hospital or to see their GP. 

  • Help them to report an incident to the police if they choose to do so. 

  • Go to appointments with them, if they want you to – even just being there in the waiting room can help someone feel reassured. 

  • Go with them to visit a solicitor if they are ready to take this step. 

  • If they are going to an appointment (e.g. with their doctor, solicitor or specialist support worker) help them to write down lists of questions that they want to ask, or help to put points into an order that makes sense. ​​

  • Help them to keep records of the abuse, keep a log of incidents, things they have told you, messages and photos of any injuries or damage to property. Make sure this is kept somewhere safe where the abuser cannot see it, and that the abuser can’t see that messages, screenshots or photos have been sent to someone else.

  • Ask them if there are any specific practical tasks you could help with, and work on those. For example, this could include: 

  • offering them a lift somewhere 

  • arranging childcare for them 

  • taking over a chore or household task 

  • Offer them the use of your address and/or telephone number to leave information and messages, and tell them you will look after an emergency bag for them, if they want this. 

  • Let them create their own boundaries of what they think is safe and what is not safe; don’t urge them to follow any strategies that they express doubt about. ​​

 

  • Look after yourself while you are supporting someone through such a difficult and emotional time. Ensure that you do not put yourself into a dangerous situation; for example, do not offer to talk to the abuser about your friend or let yourself be seen by the abuser as a threat to their relationship.  Read more looking after yourself.

What if it's an emergency?

Breaking someone’s trust may mean that they are unlikely to trust other people in the future and may put them at additional risk.  

However, there may be times when you feel someone needs help urgently, for example if you’re worried: 

  • That someone is at immediate, serious risk of harm, such as death or serious injury and that it could happen soon.

  • About the welfare of a child or vulnerable adult.

If anyone is in immediate danger contact the police on 999 as soon as possible.

 

  • If you do have to break someone’s trust and tell someone else what is happening, try to keep them in control as much as possible, whilst keeping yourself safe. This could mean that you inform the person you are concerned about what your worries are and, if appropriate, contact the relevant services together.  

  • If you or others feel in danger right now call 999 and ask for the police to help. You might feel worried about getting someone in trouble, but it's important to put your own safety first. 

 

If you are concerned about the welfare of a child or a vulnerable adult contact social services.  

If you are worried about someone and unsure what to do, seek out advice. 

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Who else can help?

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There are lots of specialist support services who have useful information on their websites and offer helplines which the person you're worried about will be able to use, if that's what they want to do.

Findaway is a Sunderland based service, if you live in Sunderland your local domestic abuse service is WWIN.

If you're based outside of Sunderland you can find your local service using the Women's Aid Service Directory.

The 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline is run by Refuge: 0808 2000 247

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