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How can I help?

Unfortunately, domestic abuse is more common than people often think. We know that there are over 2 million victims of domestic abuse every year in the UK, and that approximately 1 in 5 people will experience domestic abuse in their adult lifetime [1].


With that being said, you will almost certainly come into contact with someone in an abusive relationship in your lifetime. The good news is that there are lots of things that you can do to help.


If you have concerns about someone you know, or someone comes to you for support; its only natural that your first thought will be "How can I help?"

For further information click the links below or download: 

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How can I help?


Start taking notice of the behaviours within the relationship. Are you recognising any red flags? Recognising the signs is the first step to helping the person you're worried about. Find out more about the signs and potential red flags here: Should I be worried?



If you've recognised that something doesn't seem right, or you've noticed a potential red flag, don't ignore your gut feeling. Ignoring the signs could leave the person you're worried about feeling more alone. Think about your approach, ask 'gentle', non-judgemental questions. 



If the person does disclose abuse to you then how you respond can make a huge difference. ​We want the first response to always be a supportive one. Find out more about helpful and unhelpful responses to disclosures here: What can I say?



Acknowledge that they are in a frightening and difficult situation, but let them make their own decisions. They are the expert in their own life and their choices need to be respected. Accept that they might not want additional support right now. Let them tell you what they need. Find out more here: What if they don't want my help?



There are lots of practical things you might be able to do support someone, if that’s what they want you to do. Find out more here: What can I do? If they're not ready there are still things you can do to help, like preparing for when they are ready to talk (What can I say?) and reaching out for support yourself, find out more here: Who else can help?

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What can I say? 

There are many reasons someone might be reluctant to speak out if they are being controlled, scared or hurt by their partner or family member. For example, they might blame themselves, they might be afraid to bring shame on their community or family, they might not recognise what is happening as abuse, or they might still love their abuser and want to protect them. Perhaps most importantly, they might be scared of their abuser and the consequences for them and their children.


These are just some of the things that might prevent the person you're worried about from sharing what’s happening, it also might mean if you have concerns and try to talk to them about it, they might 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. 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 get more support elsewhere. 

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 those 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.

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If you want to know more about what you can say to support the person you're worried about, follow the link to download our toolkit:

What Can I Say??

Should I share my own experiences?

If you have your own experiences of abuse it is up to you how open you choose to be about this. If you do decide to share, consider how you would feel if you received a negative response.  

The person you’re worried about might compare their experience to yours and may seek to minimize their own abuse, find differences between your experiences or may feel guilty about discussing their experiences with you.  

If asked outright if you’ve experienced abuse, you could return the conversation to them, e.g. “Let’s talk about you right now.” 

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Sharing My Experiences..

What can I do?

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.

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

  • 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 points they want to make. Offer to attend appointments with them, if they would like you to.


  • 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 practical tasks you could help with, for example: 

  • offering them a lift somewhere 

  • arranging childcare for them 

  • helping with a 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.

  • Keep in touch and ask them how they are doing. Remember to let them create their own boundaries, and set your boundaries as well - be realistic about what you can and can't help with. For more info go to: Safety and wellbeing

For more ideas of ways you can support someone follow the link to download our information sheet: How can I help toolkit


They don't want my help..

What if they don't want my help?

If you feel that someone you care about is being hurt or controlled, but can't or won't reach out for help, and won't accept any help you offer, it's understandable to feel frustrated, upset and powerless.


However, it's important to accept that there are many reasons why it’s difficult for someone being abused to leave or to reach out for help. Those reasons are all valid for them. Leaving is a process and they may make many attempts. Some people might never leave. Remember, the abuser alone is responsible for the abuse. 

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There are still things you can do to help in this situation, for example you can: 

  • Let them know that you will be there if they ever change their mind and that there will be no judgement from you. Keep the door open for when they are ready.

  • Take a step back, look after your own mental health, reassure yourself that when they are ready you will be there.

  • Focus on the things you can do rather than the frustration of them not moving at the pace you expect them too. Accept that you cannot control the situation and you might already be doing everything you can.

  • Learn more about domestic abuse and the support available, so you are prepared if they do come to you for help in the future. Learning more about domestic abuse and the different myths can also help you understand what the person is going through, and to help you challenge unhelpful attitudes from others.

  • Keep in touch with them. If they don't want to discuss the abuse or seek help, still try to stay in touch with them and keep connected. The abuser will try to isolate them, making it harder to reach out to someone or ask for help when they are ready. Even if they always say no, contact them to ask if they want to meet-up, invite them to social activities and ask how they are.

  • Continue to notice and acknowledge the abuse through gentle, non-judgemental questions where it feels appropriate, as long as this doesn't feel like it is pushing the person you are worried about away. If you feel this happening you can go back to keeping in touch through conversations that don't touch on the abuse.

  • Let them create their own boundaries as they know their situation better than anyone. Respecting their boundaries will help them trust you and keep you connected. 

  • Create healthy boundaries, let them know you are there to support them but be clear about what you can help with and what you can't do. For example, be clear if something would make you uncomfortable, such as holding evidence or promising never to tell anyone even if they are in danger.

  • Talk to us if you'd like to discuss your situation anonymously. We can talk to you about what is happening and offer practical support and information. Sometimes it might just be helpful to talk to someone else, especially if you are the only person the victim has told about the abuse. Call our phoneline or use the online webchat to speak to a trained advisor.

What can't I do?

As much as we might want to, we can't 'rescue' the person we're worried about, but we can support them and be there for them.

Being close to someone who is in an abusive relationship is hard and upsetting. However, it's important to resist the urge to 'rescue' the victim, or 'confront' the abuser. Even with the best intentions doing either of those things can be unhelpful and could be dangerous.

It can be frightening and distressing to see someone you care about being abused, and you might feel powerless or desperate to help. However, trying to control the situation and push someone into a course of action could put them in more danger, and put yourself at risk as well.

It’s important not to tell someone to leave an abusive relationship. This has to be their own decision. Many people will never leave the abuser, and whilst it might feel frustrating to see someone stay in an abusive relationship, supporting their decisions will help them trust you and keep you connected. It's important to remember that they are not 'choosing' to stay, they are in that situation because of the abuser's actions.

​​The best thing you can do to support is let the person you are worried about make their own decisions about the relationship; they are the experts of their own experience.  

For more tips on safety and looking after yourself go to our Safety & Wellbeing page.

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REMEMBER: Look after yourself while you are supporting someone through such a difficult and emotional time. Don't put yourself into a dangerous situation and be realistic about what you can and can't help with.
It's an emergency..

What if it's an emergency?

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

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  • If you do have to tell someone else what is happening, let the person you are worried about retain as much control as possible, whilst keeping yourself safe. This could mean that you tell the person you are worried about what your concerns 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 in your local area. Alternatively you can call the NSPCC helpline on 0808 800 5000 if you are concerned about a child, or visit the NSPCC website for further support.  

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

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