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28th Sep 2018

Nearly a third of women experience domestic abuse -here’s what to do if it’s a friend


Sponsored by Cosc. 

Ever witnessed domestic abuse?

There’s a decent chance that you have. Statistically, four in 10 of us know someone who has experienced domestic violence. So we at Her have teamed up with Cosc – the National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence – to bring further awareness to the serious issue. In particular, ensuring we know what to do if we are a witness to domestic violence.

Firstly, domestic abuse doesn’t gender discriminate. Although it’s more common that women experience it, in Ireland, 213,000 women and 88,000 men have been severely abused by a partner at some point in their lives. And domestic violence isn’t just something that happens once – it’s often a pattern of repeat abuse.

According to Cosc, 70 percent of us agree that domestic violence is a common problem in our country. But being unaware of what to do, on the witnesses’ part, is ONE of the main reasons abuse is able to continue. It’s true we all have our own concerns and issues to deal with, but imagine what a person being abused is going through.

Firstly, know how to recognise warning signs. If a friend is anxious or afraid of their partner – take this as a signal. If they’re not meeting with you, their other friends, their family, or if they talk about their partners temper and jealousy – there could be a serious problem, even if they don’t explicitly state that. A person who’s being abused might also have limited access to money, seem depressed, or suicidal.

Destruction of property, isolation from friends, family, and threats towards people a person cares about are all signs too. Of course stalking, taking control over money or personal items, including food, transportation, and forms of contacting people, (like a mobile) should also have warning lights flashing. If you’re concerned about a friend of yours, here are some tips as to what you can do and how to go about it:

1. Show Your Concern and Assure Them Any Violence is NOT Their Fault

If it’s someone you KNOW being abused, don’t wait for them to come to you. They may never.

Try to grab a private moment between the two of you, or arrange one and  let them know of your concerns, but most importantly, your SUPPORT for them. You can express concern without sounding condescending by explaining you’re worried. It’s easier for a person to find themselves in a domestic abuse situation than some of us might imagine.

People who are abused can believe that the violence they’re experiencing is partially or entirely their fault. So, remind your friend, that no matter what excuse he or she comes up with for their abuser, nothing can EVER excuse domestic abuse. If your friend denies anything is wrong, don’t push it in case this drives them away further. Just let them know that you’re there when they need to talk to, or meet with you.

2. Show Support

You’re supporting them, but you’re not giving them advice as such. It can be extremely difficult not to, but it has been shown that a person being abused won’t leave a relationship, unless they themselves are ready to do so. When someone leaves an abusive relationship, it’s the most dangerous time for them. So the victim is usually best placed to assess the danger posed to them when they do decide to leave.

Give your friend options and offer to help. Put power back in their hands by letting THEM make choices. This helps to break the constant cycle of their power being taken away from them, by their abuser.

3. Show Them Where They Can Get Further Help

There are plenty of dedicated services in Ireland that can offer help and support to the person you are concerned about. Check out for a list of services and plenty of advice for both you and your friend.

Then there are the times when we don’t actually know the person being abused, but we are indeed a witness to it. Cosc advises that we remember the three D’s. If you’ve decided that you think it’s time you intervened, and it’s SAFE to do so, then remember ‘Distract,’ ‘Delegate,’ and ‘Direct.

A person who’s being abused might look afraid of their partner, act submissive, show physical injuries, or they could be wearing unusual clothing if they’re trying to cover up any physical abuse. Their partner, if abusive, will likely try and intimidate or embarrass them in public too.

1. Distract

The whole idea is that you want to prevent a nasty, abusive act from happening. You don’t want to come across as though you’re being confrontational, so approach either the person that’s about to commit violence, or the potential victim. Ask for directions, the time or any similarly general question you can think of.

2. Delegate

Sometimes you might find yourself in an environment where the victim and abuser know others there, in the same place. If you recognise this, and feel comfortable and SAFE in doing so, you could say to their friend, “I’m concerned about that person. Their partner seems to be very angry, could you check in on them now or later on?” If you’re out on the town, look for a bouncer or someone similar.

3. Direct

When using a direct approach, it’s wise to be subtle and use your body language to show your disapproval – simply make it obvious that you’re keeping an eye on the situation. If you’re going to approach either persons involved, Cosc recommends that we approach the victim rather than the abuser. Just say, “I’m concerned about what just happened, are you okay?” Or if you can only get in a short few words, remind the victim that “Nobody should be treated like that,” or “That wasn’t your fault.”

Generally, if you witness any kind of abuse, make sure it’s safe for you to get involved by assessing the situation and making an informed, logical decision. If you don’t feel safe in showing your concern and getting involved, contact the Gardaí on 999/112. The only effective bystander intervention is a non-violent one. If you try to ‘rescue’ a victim or fight off an abuser, you’ll not only endanger yourself, but the abuser may take out their anger on the victim later. The victim could end up more isolated and less likely to seek help later on.

Sponsored by Cosc