Domestic violence refers to violent behaviour between current or former intimate partners – typically where one partner tries to exert power and control over the other, usually through fear. It can include physical, sexual, emotional, social, verbal, spiritual and economic abuse.
Family violence is a broader term that refers to violence between family members, which can include violence between current or former intimate partners, as well as acts of violence between a parent and a child, between siblings, and more.
Behaviour towards victims can include limiting their access to finances, preventing them from contacting family and friends, demeaning and humiliating them, threatening them or their children with injury or death, and acts of physical violence.
It can be difficult to know what to say to a person experiencing domestic and family violence. Here are some ideas of effective ways to support someone experiencing abuse:
Listen – Being listened to can be an empowering experience for a person affected by violence. Give them space to tell their story and be empathetic and compassionate.
Validate and believe them – Often people are not confident to tell their story in case they are not believed. You can help a person feel stronger by showing you believe what they say, no matter what they share.
Be clear that they are not to blame - People who are experiencing domestic and family violence can often feel incredibly scared and unsure of themselves. You can say things like: ‘Violence is unacceptable. You do not deserve to be treated this way.’ Avoid asking: ‘Why don’t you leave?’, ‘What could you have done to avoid this situation?’ and ‘Why did they hit you?’, as these might suggest they could control the violence by managing their behaviour.
Above all, help them seek help –You don’t need to try to fix the situation or be a counsellor. Refer them to services that can support them.