How Can I Support a Friend Suffering Domestic Abuse? – Ask an Expert

“I am worried that my friend is suffering domestic abuse in her relationship. How can I help her and are you able to offer any advice on how I can support her ?”

My advice would be to listen and encourage them to seek professional support. The help could be in the form of legal support from a family law solicitor to help obtain protection from their abusive partner.

What is Domestic Abuse?

Domestic abuse is the term for when someone close to you, often a partner, causes you physical, sexual, psychological, emotional or financial  harm. It can also include controlling behaviour. The violence and abuse can be actual or threatened and can happen once every so often or on a regular basis.

Types of domestic abuse are:

Physical Abuse

This is the most obvious form of abuse, but doesn’t cover only hitting. This includes forms of abuse where items are thrown in temper, the partner pinches or shoves claiming it’s a ‘joke’ or “play fighting”

Coercive control

Coercive control often can’t be pinned down to one event in a relationship, but is the accumulation of words, behaviours and threats that intimidate humiliate, isolate and control the victim – leaving them without freedom and very little of ‘themselves’ left. It can be just as harmful as physical abuse. Examples include calling her names, putting her down, making her feel like she is going mad and blaming her for the abuse, or controlling her every move through threats and intimidation.

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse – including rape, sexual assault and sexual exploitation – is commonly used as a way to control and abuse partners. Sexual abuse is any form of sexual activity (involving physical contact, words, or photographs) that takes place without the other person’s full and informed consent.

Financial Abuse

Financial abuse is a way of controlling a person’s ability to acquire, use and maintain their own money and resources. This can also include spending or taking money without consent, building debts up in their partner’s name, damaging possessions or property or, if the couple are separated, withholding child maintenance payments.

Spotting the Signs of Domestic Abuse

Each situation and relationship is different so it is difficult to define a specific action or sign of domestic abuse. However it is common in domestic abuse situations for some of the following to occur:

  • The partner is possessive and/or obsessively jealous
  • Charming to friends and family, but sudden changes of mood behind closed doors
  • Stopping their partner from seeing family and friends and making them feel isolated
  • Constantly criticising and embarrassing their partner
  • Makes their partner second guess decisions
  • Controls money
  • Decide what their partner will wear
  • They monitor the movements of their partner, check-up via messages and social media
  • They look at their partners messages
  • They use anger and intimidation to frighten their partner
  • They can lose their temper and hit or throw items at their partner to hurt them
  • They blame their partner for their behaviour

Physical abuse symptoms include:

  • Bruises
  • Broken or fractured bones
  • Burns or scalds
  • Bite marks

According to the charity Refuge, almost one in three women aged 16-59 will experience domestic abuse in her lifetime and two women a week are killed by a current or former partner in England and Wales alone. They report that only 24% of domestic abuse crime is reported. So it’s important that if you believe that your friend is suffering a form of domestic abuse that you support her sooner rather than later.

Getting Legal Protection

Injunction Order – If your friend wants to get legal protection they can apply to the family court for an injunction order. An injunction order can provide  breathing space for them to recover and make decisions about the future. It can prohibit further abuse and exclude their partner from their home.

  1. Non-Molestation Order – This forbids the use or threat of violence and the use of intimidation, harassment or pestering. It can also prohibit specific behaviour. The court has to take into account all of the circumstances including the need to secure the health, safety and wellbeing of the victim and that of any children that may be involved.
  2. Occupation Order – Can be obtained where significant harm to a person or your children is likely.

The order may include:

  • A requirement that your partner leave the home
  • Suspension of your partner’s right to occupy the home
  • Exclusion of your partner from a defined area around the home

Once you have a non-molestation order in place the police have the power to arrest in the event of a breach of the order, which is a criminal offence.

It’s important to contact a Solicitor as soon as possible and they can advise and help apply for the order.

Supporting a Victim of Domestic Abuse

If you have spotted any of the signs of domestic abuse, reaching out to your friend is the first step. Leaving a violent partner is a process, not a single act.

Remember, if you see or hear an assault, or you are worried your friend might be in an emergency situation, you can call the police on 999.

There are things you can do to support your friend, which includes:

  • Listen, try to understand, acknowledge that they are not alone.
  • Create a safe space – somewhere private and alone where they can express themselves
  • If physical harm has occurred offer to  go with them to the GP or Hospital
  • Tell them you’re worried – make them aware that you are recognising the issues and you’re there for them
  • Don’t judge
  • Encourage them to seek legal support and go with them to speak to a Solicitor
  • Give them time and don’t pressure them
  • Offer your number and address for correspondence related to support
  • Offer to keep an ‘emergency bag’ safe with cash, clothes, toiletries and personal belongings just in case

It is difficult to give a ‘one size fit’s all’ answer to this as it depends on the situation. But no matter what, your friend will need legal support to keep herself safe.

There is legal aid available for domestic abuse cases, which is means tested, and we have a designated team of Solicitors who specialise in these cases.

Contact us on:

Sheffield – 0114 249 66 66

Barnsley – 01226 805 190

Rotherham – 01709 364 000

Or email us at [email protected]

Charity Support Schemes

There are a number of support schemes that can help in situations of domestic abuse. These include:

 

IDAS

IDAS is the largest specialist charity in Yorkshire supporting people affected by domestic abuse and sexual violence.

0808 2000 247

https://www.idas.org.uk/

 

Women’s Aid

Offer free counselling service online via email or instant chat

https://chat.womensaid.org.uk/

 

Refuge

Domestic abuse help

0808 2000 247

https://www.refuge.org.uk/

 

YWHP

Support for young women and their children who have been affected by domestic abuse

0114 2680580

https://www.ywhp.org.uk/contact/

 

Galop

LGBT+ domestic abuse help

0800 999 5428

http://www.galop.org.uk/domesticabuse/

 

Saffron

Sheffield Women’s Counselling and Therapy Service

0114 275 2157

https://www.saffronsheffield.org.uk/contact-us

 

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