Domestic violence: How to spot it and how to help

Could one of your friends or family members be exposed to domestic violence? Find out what signs to watch for and how you can help with these tips

Domestic violence: How to spot it and how to help

Source: The Body Shop; July 2008

One in three women from all walks of life suffers from physical or mental abuse at some point during her life, according to UNIFEM, the women’s fund at the United Nations. And for women affected by domestic violence, it can be difficult to reach out to even those closest to them, for fear of making the situation worse. Recent research shows that as many as 67 percent of Canadian women would choose to confide in a friend rather than family or police if their partner subjected them to violence. Find out how to spot domestic violence and how to help with these tips.

Some signs to look out for in a friend who may be affected by domestic violence

• Your friend has recently become quieter or more withdrawn
• She ends phone calls or conversations suddenly when her partner appears
• You are made to feel unwelcome or tense when her partner is nearby
• You have noticed bruises or cuts
• She has said that her partner is possessive or jealous
• Socially, she has begun to see less of you and your friends

How to support a friend who may be in need of help

• If you’re worried about a friend, you can show your concern by asking questions such as "You don’t look very happy, is everything OK at home?" This gives your friend the chance to open up and confide in you.
• Be patient. Listen and don’t judge her. It is up to her to make decisions in her own time.
• Don’t be critical of her partner. This could make her feel ashamed and may prevent her from confiding in you again.
• There is a possibility you may lose contact with your friend temporarily. This may make you feel frustrated or angry, but be patient.
• You must tell her that the violence isn’t her fault. Remind her that violence is a choice and that her partner is the only one responsible for his behaviour. Being honest with your friend will help her realize that her relationship isn’t healthy.
• Remind your friend that domestic violence is against the law and the police have to investigate.
• Encourage her to seek immediate confidential help from the police or a local crisis line or women’s shelter.
• Knowing that she has the loyal support of her family and friends will encourage her to begin her new life.
• Most important, don’t give up on your friend. You might be her only lifeline.
• If you feel your friend is in immediate danger, you have no choice but to seek immediate help from the local authorities.

Need more advice on helping stop domestic violence? Visit

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