How to support someone you know is experiencing family violence

Knowing that a colleague or staff member is being hurt is hard and it can be difficult to know what to do.

It is OK to say something if someone you know is experiencing family violence or you suspect is experiencing family violence.

There are some simple things you can do to help, including listening non-judgmentally, believing them and taking their fears and concerns seriously.

When someone is experiencing violence, they often feel trapped and out of control. These feelings can be made worse if you try to force them to do what you think is best. It is very important that people are supported to make their own choices when they are ready.

You may be worried about doing the wrong thing, but it is important to know that it is OK to say something. Many people are glad to have the chance to talk about what they are going through.

When an employee discloses that they are experiencing family violence they way you respond is important. Here are some tips.

Being listened to can be an empowering experience for a person who has been abused. Listen with eyes, ears and heart – with empathy and without judging. ‘That must have been very frightening / difficult for you.’

Assess and respond to her various needs and concerns—emotional, physical, social and practical (e.g. childcare). “What I’m hearing is that at the moment you need support around… ”

Show them that you understand and believe them. Assure them that they are not to blame. “Violence is unacceptable, and you do not deserve to be treated this way.” “It must have been difficult for you to talk about this.” “I’m glad you were able to tell me about this today.”

Ask what the person’s immediate concerns are. “Are you concerned about your safety or the safety of your children or pets?” Assist them to seek help from a more specialised service. “It must be difficult going through what you have experienced, you have the right to feel safe.”

In an emergency or if is someone is in danger now, call 000 immediately.

Provide support by helping to connect to information, services and social support. “Would you like some support to help you deal with the situation?”

Here are some ways you can help:

  • Never blame the person experiencing the violence for what has happened to them. Violence is never OK.
  • Don’t make excuses for the person who has hurt them.
  • Understand that they may not be ready, or it may not be safe to leave. Don’t try to force them to do what you think is best.
  • Remember that family violence is not just physical.
  • If possible, you can help in practical ways, with transport, appointments, child minding, or a place to escape to.

You or the person you are supporting can call 1800 RESPECT (phone 1800 737 732) or visit their website for more information and support.

Many workplaces have information on their intranet on how to support staff who are victims, including Employee Assistance Programs, family violence leave and other supports. This can be a good place to start.

Nurses and midwives can also call the NMHPV for advice and referral to specialist family violence services.