Someone I care about is experiencing domestic abuse

experience4Someone you know or care about is experiencing domestic abuse: they may have told you directly, you may have witnessed it or you have strong grounds to believe they are in that situation. If you want to direct a friend to Sonas we and other services are here to help.

It is important to remember that domestic abuse differs from a “bad relationship”. In a normal relationship or even one going badly or ending – neither individual fears the other or is controlled by the other. Domestic abuse doesn’t always have to mean physical violence but it can be part of the abuse.

Domestic abuse is fundamentally the control of one partner over the other. Domestic abuse doesn’t have to involve physical violence although it can be part of it; it usually involves a mix of following: emotional, verbal, financial – denial or control over necessities, sexual and physical abuse. Exposing children to domestic abuse is the emotional abuse of children – even if they are not the direct targets of the abuse.

Domestic abuse doesn’t have to happen all the time which can make it even more confusing especially for victims – abuse tends to be cyclical increasing in severity and frequency. There can be periods of calm, where the abuse feels secure in their control of their partner and the situation, followed by a build-up towards an abusive episode, which again may result in apologies and promises to change by the abuser. Many survivors say it was those periods that made them stay in the relationship; in reality these periods are just part of a manipulative control cycle.

Child welfare and protection is a priority. If you have concerns about a child then contact: www.tusla.ie/children-first/how-do-i-report-abuse. If your have immediate concerns about a child and it is outside office hours you can contact the Gardai directly.

Signs a woman may be experiencing domestic abuse…

  • She seems afraid of her partner or is always very anxious to please him
  • She stops seeing friends or family
  • She says her partner continually phones or texts her when she is out of the house and wants to know where she is and who she is with at all times
  • She may have unexplained bruises or cuts
  • She may have little money or access to cash even when she is working or the family would appear to have sufficient funds
  • She may have changed her behaviour becoming more withdrawn, anxious or depressed

How to approach someone you care about…

Your response can make a big difference and though it may be hard to avoid telling someone what to do, right now they need to know you believe them, don’t blame them and aren’t going to minimise their experiences. The following could help:

  • Find a safe time and place to talk if you are the one approaching her about the issue. You might want to start with “I’ve noticed”… or “I saw/ heard…”
  • Respect her decision if she does not want to talk but let her know you are there for her if she does – many victims of domestic abuse feel ashamed of their experiences
  • If and when she does talk it is important you let her know you believe her – many abusers can be charming and use friendships and family relationships to further isolate their victims
  • Ask how she is coping and how has the behaviour been affecting her and, if she has children, them
  • If she has children you may want to ask how the behaviour is also affecting them – domestic abuse is the emotional abuse of children whether they are the direct targets of the abuse or not. Many abusers also abuse children directly and/ or use children to further abuse the mother
  • Focus on the safety of her, and if there are children in the situation, theirs
  • Let her know the abuse/ violence is not her fault but there is help and support she can access – see Sonas services and other key services for direction or call/ email our advice line or others

Avoid…

  • Blaming her
  • Minimising her experiences, for example, by blaming the abuser’s behaviour on alcohol and other drugs; many people use and misuse alcohol and other drugs without being abusive to their partners. An abuser has a choice how to behave
  • Telling her what to do – her confidence has already been eroded including her capacity to make decisions; she needs to be able to make her own choices and decisions
  • Avoid making negative comments about her partner – difficult as this may be – she may feel the need to defend him instead concentrate on his behaviour and how it is impacting her. Hers, and the safety of any children in the situation, are the paramount consideration
  • Avoid directly confronting the partner about his abuse as this may put everyone including children, if they are in the situation, in increased danger

Child welfare and protection is a priority. If you have concerns about a child then contact: www.tusla.ie/children-first/how-do-i-report-abuse. If your have immediate concerns about a child and it is outside office hours you can contact the Gardai directly.