Someone I know is experiencing domestic abuse

Men in abusive relationships employ various methods to attempt to diffuse potentially violent situations:

  • go into another room or lock themselves away in a safe place
  • leave the dwelling, go to family or friends
  • sleep in their car, shed, garage or wherever they can find shelter
  • promise to do whatever is asked or demanded
  • accept responsibility for all sorts of untrue accusations
  • Cover up for their violent partner.

These are all survival tactics but will not stop the attacks. However, most men will do anything in the vain hope of stopping the abuse. What they fail to do is record the incidents, injuries or pattern of events. They fail to tell any family members of the situation and make excuses for their injuries even when they attend the hospital or the doctor. They fear the humiliation and stigma of disclosure even when the abuse is life-threatening.

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, do not blame them and are not going to minimise their experiences. The following could help:

  • Phone Amen for professional advice before approaching if possible.
  • Find a safe time and place to talk if you are the one approaching him about the issue. You might want to start with “I’ve noticed”… or “I saw/ heard…”
  • Respect his decision if he does not want to talk but let him know you are there for him if he does – many victims of domestic abuse feel ashamed of their experiences
  • If and when he does talk, it is important you let him know you believe him – many abusers can be charming and use friendships and family relationships to further isolate their victims
  • Ask how he is coping and how has the behaviour been affecting him and, if he has children, them
  • If he 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.
  • Focus on the safety of him, and if there are children in the situation, theirs
  • Let them know the abuse/ violence is not their fault but there is help and support they can access
  • Give them the phone number for Amen to seek professional help.

Avoid…

  • Blaming them
  • Minimising their 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 them what to do – their confidence has already been eroded including his capacity to make decisions; he needs to be able to make his own choices and decisions
  • Avoid making negative comments about their partner – difficult as this may be – they may feel the need to defend their partner, instead concentrate on the partner’s behaviour and how it is impacting him. His and the safety of any children in the situation, are the paramount consideration
  • Avoid directly confronting the partner about the 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 you have immediate concerns about a child and it is outside office hours you can contact the Gardaí directly.