Call Scotland’s Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0800 027 1234 or make contact with FearFree.
Learn the warning signs, such as
- Black eyes, bruises, busted lips…
- Low self-esteem, hypervigilant, fearful, anxious, loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities, disturbed sleeping patterns, loss of appetite…
- Substance abuse, being late often, cancelling meetings at the last minute, excessive privacy of personal life…
- Inability to make contact over the phone or to stay on the phone uninterrupted; the person might sound fearful and unable to speak freely.
Listen without judgement to the person. Don’t blame them.
Believe them and offer your support. Don’t pressure them neither to leave the relationship nor to give you more details. Let the person dictate their own rhythm.
Acknowledge and validate their feelings – they may feel afraid, confused, anxious… They could have mixed feelings regarding the abuser.
Acknowledge their bravery and strength for disclosing to you the abuse and for how they have coped and managed with it. … Let them know that no one deserves to be treated the way they are. Validate their feelings and remind them that they are not alone.
Encourage them to express how they feel. Offer a safe space free of judgment.
Assist them to prepare and rehearse a safety plan. This would need to include:
- A safe place to go in case they need to leave. This could be a local shelter, or the home of a friend or family member.
- An emergency bag with essential items in case they need to leave. This would include passports, cash, cards, legal documents, underwear, toothbrush, keys, toiletries, etc.
- A code word to express if they are safe to talk or to let you know to call the police if they are in immediate risk.
- A reason or excuse to leave the property.
- A list of emergency contacts, such as family members, friends, organisations, etc.
- Remind them that if they are in immediate danger they should call 999. If they are in a fluid situation likely to escalate rapidly, they can call 999 followed by 55, which signals to the operator that the person cannot talk but they can still be heard.
Ask them if they have suffered any physical harm. If that is the case, offer your support to go to the hospital or GP.
If they want to report it to the police, you can also offer your support.
You can offer them your home and/or telephone number to leave messages. They could also leave a “emergency bag” at your place. This could include essential items, such as debit cards, cash, passports, legal documents, etc.
Do not put yourself at risk, for example, by confronting the abuser. This would also increase the risk for the person being abused.
You can also offer them information about organisation that provide support to people experiencing domestic abuse. Women can access local Women’s Aid Centres, while FearFree can support male, non-binary and LGBT+ people affected by domestic abuse.
If you know that violence is actively occurring, call 999. The police are the most effective way to remove the immediate danger to the victim and their children.
Do not forget the person you want to help is an expert in their own relationship and they have been managing the situation. Do not tell them what to do. Instead, offer them your support and advice if they want it.
Remember that domestic abuse is more than just physical violence. It includes emotional, psychological, sexual, physical and financial abuse, as well as coercive control (excessive control over one person by their intimate partner. Coercive Control alone has been criminalised in Scotland since 2019.
Although you may feel frustrated because you want to help the person and get them out of the abusive situation, it is their decision to make. Not pressuring them and keep a steady support is essential for them to take the decision of leaving.