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How to tell if someone is a victim
It's sometimes difficult to know if a relative, friend, neighbour or colleague is experiencing domestic violence and abuse. Victims and perpetrators come from various walks of life. Victims aren't always passive with low self-esteem and perpetrators aren't always violent or hateful to their partner in front of others. Most people experiencing relationship violence don't tell others what goes on at home.
Signs to look for include:
Injuries and excuses: sometimes bruises and injuries may occur frequently and be in obvious places. The victim may be forced to call in sick to work or face the embarrassment and make excuses about how the injuries occurred. Sometimes bruises and other injuries may be inflicted in places where they won't show.
Low self-esteem: some victims have low self-esteem, while others have confidence and esteem in some areas of their life (for example, at work) but not within their relationship. They may feel powerless in dealing with the relationship and believe they couldn't make it on their own or are somehow better off having the abuser in their life.
Personality changes: you may notice that a normally outgoing person becomes quiet and shy around their partner and is agreeing with them all the time. This could be a victim's way of dealing with abuse and not wanting to challenge the perpetrator for fear of repercussions.
Self-blame: you may notice someone taking all of the blame for things that go wrong. They may share a story about something that happened at home and then say it was all their fault. If this happens a lot, it may be a sign that this person is experiencing domestic abuse.
Isolation and control: in general, adults who are physically abused are often isolated. The abuser often exerts control over their victim's life, wanting to be the centre of their universe and limit their access to anyone who might help them escape. You might notice that someone:
- Has limited access to the phone.
- Often makes excuses about why they can't see you or insists that their partner has to come along.
- Doesn't seem to be able to make decisions about spending money.
- Isn't allowed to drive, go on courses or get a job.
- Has a noticeable change in self-esteem which might include being unable to make eye contact or looking away or at the ground when talking.
How can you help?
If there's a threat of immediate danger to anyone, dial 999.
If you notice any of the above signs and are concerned about someone, there's a lot you can do to help:
- Try talking to the person affected and help them to address the problems they're experiencing. Remember not to pressure them to disclose the abuse in detail or make decisions they're unsure about.
- Ask if they've suffered physical harm. If so, offer to take them to a hospital or to see the GP. Get the medical professional to record the visit.
- Support them to report the assault to the police if they choose to do so.
- Be ready to provide information on organisations that offer help and support to victims, children and young people.
- You can also advise them to contact services providing support to victims of domestic violence and abuse