Lockdown and restrictions were difficult for everyone. For those living with an abusive partner or family member, it has been dangerous, traumatic and relentless. Opportunities to get support are more limited than ever. Offering help becomes even more valuable.
In an emergency:
If you believe someone is in immediate danger please call 999 and ask for the police. Silent calls will work if you are not safe to speak – use the Silent Solution system and call 999 and then press 55 when prompted. If you can’t use a voice phone, you can register with the police text service - text REGISTER to 999. You will get a text which tells you what to do next. Do this when it is safe so you can text when you are in danger. Find out more.
How to help:
As a friend or family member or neighbour, it’s not your responsibility to stop the abuse. But you can do a lot to help by following a few simple steps.
Think of safety first and don’t put yourself or your friend at risk.
- Think about safe ways to meet or contact them when they’re alone
- Know what help is available locally - try searching your local council website for 'domestic abuse'
- Have the numbers for the relevant national helplines to hand
- Be led by what they think is safe
Start conversations gently, conveying your concern.
- “You haven’t been in touch much lately. Is everything OK?”
- “I’ve noticed you seem a bit down. Has anyone upset you?”
- “I’m worried about how you’re doing during lockdown. Should I be?”
A common concern is feeling like you don’t know enough about domestic abuse to respond well. But simply listening can help someone to break the silence around their situation.
- “Go on…”
- “How do you feel about that?
- “Thank you for telling me.”
If someone tells you they are being abused, the important thing to convey is that you believe the person. And to let them know what’s happening to them is wrong.
- “I believe you.”
- “It’s not your fault.”
- “Thank you for telling me.”
5. Offer help
Make suggestions, not demands. It’s important not to pressure the person who is experiencing abuse. They need to make their own decisions in their own time.
- Offer to ring a helpline to find out about support.
- Offer to make a plan together on how to stay safe - take a look at our safety planning guide
- You could offer a place to stay if needed, or keep an emergency bag. Remember leaving an abusive partner can be dangerous. It should be done with the support of a specialist domestic abuse service.
Reaching in changes lives
Read about how reaching in has changed lives:
- Melani's colleague asked her how she was and helped her when she was ready to leave. Read Melani’s story.
- Nicola’s neighbour drove her to a safe place when she needed help. Read Nicola’s story.
- A survivor reflects on how the lockdown is a chance for family and friends to talk if they are worrying about someone. Read her story.
- Ruby talks about how important her friends would have been if she was still in her one bed flat now. Read Ruby’s story.
- Sophie’s friend helped her realise she was in an abusive relationship. Read Sophie’s story.
Have you Reached In to help someone this way? We'd love to hear about your experience. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
More resources and information:
- We have produced guidance for friends and family, alongside Dr Alison Gregory, a researcher at Bristol University who specialises in domestic abuse and informal support networks.
- Equation have released helpful guidance on what to say if you think a friend is experiencing domestic abuse.
The Mix offers free support for young people on anything from healthy relationships to finances. They've got some specific tools to help young people navigate relationships which might be helpful in opening a conversation with a young person you're worried about:
Crimestoppers are an independent charity that gives people the power to speak up about crime - 100% anonymously. You can call them on 0800 555 111.
In the podcast below, Dr Alison Gregory speaks to Rachel Ozanne from SafeLives, as well as survivor and SafeLives Pioneer Ursula about these issues in more detail.