It's quite a shock for most people when a friend, family member or neighbour confides to them that they are experiencing domestic violence in their home. Rarely are we prepared for something like this and we might often not know how to respond. They could be asking for help, support, just wanting to talk, or unsure of what to do, but one thing is certain, your response will affect their decision. We came up with what we think are the top five things to keep in mind and act upon if and when this situation arises.
1. Listen Without Judgement
One of the most common forms of abuse is isolation. Women in abusive relationships often lack a support system to reach out to when they need help. When a woman reaches out to you, realize she may be afraid, ashamed and is taking a risk because she needs someone to confide in and someone to support her. When you’re preoccupied with thoughts such as “Why doesn’t she just leave?”, “Why isn’t she thinking about her kids?” or “She must have done something for him to react that way”, then you don’t have the time or capacity to support her. Remember that the survivor is not responsible. Domestic violence is not a matter of anger or a disagreement between partners; domestic violence is a pattern of continuous coercive and controlling behaviours used by one person over another to gain power and control.
2. Don’t Try to “Fix it”
It’s not your problem to fix. Realize that you don’t know the whole situation and as a result might make recommendations which could make matters worse or more unsafe. Our role is to support, listen and assist. The decisions she chooses to take must come from her and not from being pressured by anyone; in the end she will have to live with the consequences of that decision.
3. It Takes Time
It takes time to talk about these issues. Women are often embarrassed or ashamed, which is why it’s important to tell her you believe her, show her your support, tell her you’re worried about her and want to help. The healing process is different for each person, as is the process of leaving. It’s a huge decision to take, with many factors at play including societal and family pressure, children, safety, and finances. On average women attempt to leave or temporarily leave an abusive relationship seven times before leaving for good. So don’t get angry or frustrated with her decisions, understand that she may be afraid or thinks will keep her and her children safe.
4. Offer Tangible Supports
This can include babysitting her children while she is meeting service providers and figuring things out, provide your home as a safe haven for her in case things escalate all of a sudden and tell her to keep a bag of important belongings at your house.
5. Reach Out for Help
You can always call us at Nisa Homes for advice on what to do, it's fully confidential. Let her know that there are resources out there for her if she would like more help or information. She might not take you up on the offer the first time, but be patient during the process. There are many resources for survivors and even for supporters, like yourself, such as Nisa Helpline, or your local Sexual Assault Centre as well as Distress Centres. Just make sure you don’t ask others to intervene unless the survivor asks for that assistance.
Ultimately, keep in mind that there is no right or wrong way to respond to a situation like this. This is meant to be an introduction of five things to do and keep in mind, however there is much more to be said on this topic, perhaps a part 2 will be coming soon!
We hope you found these tips helpful inshAllah, please do let us know if you've been through a situation like this and how you were supportive.