How to help someone who may be experiencing domestic violence

It can be worrying if you suspect that someone you know may be experiencing domestic violence. If you are unsure whether your friend or relative is experiencing domestic violence., there may be some signs that indicate there may be domestic violence:

  • They may be afraid of their partner or be always very anxious to please him or her.
  • They may talk about their partner being possessive, or very jealous, or having a bad temper.
  • They may have become anxious or depressed, or have their confidence, or be unusually quiet.
  • They may have stopped seeing friends or family.
  • They may always cut their phone calls short when their partner is in the room.
  • They may have unexplained physical injuries such as bruises, broken bones, sprains, or cuts.
  • You may have noticed that they are often criticised or humiliated by their partner in front of other people.
  • Their partner may orders them around and make all the decisions for them (such as controlling what they can do, who they can see, and their money).
  • They may be reluctant to leave their children alone with their partner.

How to help someone who has been sexually assaulted

If someone you know tells you they’ve been sexually assaulted, it can be really overwhelming. You’ll probably have feelings of your own to deal with and might not think there’s much you can do to help.

But there is a lot you can do. And it doesn’t mean you have to have all the answers. Here’s how you can help:

  • Hear what your friend has to say and try not to interrupt.
  • Your friend needs to know that you’re on their side.
  • Tell your friend that what they’re feeling is ok.
  • No blame. In our society it’s common for victims to be blamed for the assault. Try to avoid questions like “why did you go there?” and “why did you drink that much?” because they might make your friend think that they are responsible for what happened. Victims are never to blame for their experience of sexual assault.
  • If you’re not sure, ask your friend what sort of help they’d like from you.
  • Shhh… Your friend or family member trusts you and so if you think that someone else needs to know, tell your friend first.
  • Get help. Encourage your friend to talk to someone for more support, such as a counsellor at the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre.
  • If you need to talk to someone yourself, you can call the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre on (02) 6247 2525.

Services you can access

The Domestic Violence Crisis Service

The Domestic Violence Crisis Service gives priority to the safety of people who have been subjected to violence and abuse, but they also work with all people who have been affected by Domestic Violence.

The Domestic Violence Crisis Service can provide support for family and friends of those affected by domestic violence

The Canberra Rape Crisis Centre

The Canberra Rape Crisis Centre Support can provide support for family and friends of those affected by sexual violence and assault. CRCC is staffed by specially trained workers.

These services are free and confidential. Call (02) 6247 2525 7am to 11pm, 7 days a week for support, information.

Resources you can access

The Women’s Legal Centre has published the following resources:

  • Domestic violence: a friend’s tale
  • Domestic violence: a neighbour’s tale
  • Domestic violence: a sister’s tale

You can download them at:

What to say! – A new tool for responding to sexual violence – for women and in the workplace.

The What to say website now includes two new sections – What to say for women and What to say for the workplace. These sections are designed to give women and co-workers the information they need to identify sexual violence, safe ways to respond and intervene if you experience or witness sexual violence, and advice on how to support someone who tells you they’ve experienced sexual violence. Each new section incorporates information about who to contact and will include regular blog posts over the summer about issues like sexual harassment, dating, work parties and nights out.