Community Campaigns Domestic violence advice How to help a friend experiencing domestic abuse If you know an LGBTQ+ person who you think is experiencing domestic violence or abuse then it’s important to know how you can best help them. Survivors are often in a precarious position so understanding their needs, and what they might be facing in their current situation can ensure that you’re a source of support, rather than becoming another worry for them to face. Things you can do if you’re concerned about someone Keep in touch - Check in with your friend via phone or text and see how they’re doing, this can make a huge difference. Just remember that they might have to hide their messages or hang up the phone quickly, so try to be understanding if they don’t get back to you quickly or contact is sporadic. Be available when they need it. Make a system - You can use a code phrase in case the person needs to hang up, so that they can let you know they need to go. You can also organise times of day, or places where communication or meeting up are safe, and organise your contact around that system. Direct them to support - Gently pointing your friend toward resources that can help them, like helplines, or web resources (see below) can help them understand their situation better and offer them another way to access support. Just try not to be pushy, or force them to access any resource they don’t feel comfortable using. Remember, they may not be in a position to do so safely. See our fact sheet on safely accessing support. Take notes - It could be helpful to take notes of incidents that come up in your conversations with your friend. However, don’t record the conversations secretly or do anything that would be a breach of their privacy and trust. Gently challenge abusive statements - In abusive relationships many survivors are gaslit, or emotionally manipulated, and many don’t think they’re experiencing domestic violence or abuse. Without being confrontational, you can challenge the statements the abuser has made such as “domestic violence doesn’t happen in gay relationships” by reinforcing that abuse can, and does happen between LGBTQ+ partners. If someone chooses to confide that they’re experiencing domestic violence or abuse If your LGBTQ+ friend confirms to you that they’re experiencing abuse, then it’s important to listen, be non-judgemental, and try to understand the situation from their perspective. They may only just be admitting this to themselves and not be ready to take any action, or they might have other reasons for not wanting to do anything other than talk. You’re there to support them, and that means not trying to force them into thinking as you do. Just listen - It can be easy to want to interrupt, tell the other person what to do, or offer your two cents on whatever the other person has to say. What’s often most important is that your friend feels heard, and that they’re able to comfortably talk with you, and feel comfortable sharing whatever experiences they want to. Listening, and acknowledging what they say is more important than trying to force your perspective or advice on someone, especially if it’s not what they need right now. They may still love their partner - Not only do many people in abusive relationships not see themselves as survivors of abuse, but they may also still love their partner and not wish them any harm. Keep this in mind when you’re talking to your friend, and don’t immediately go on the attack against the abuser, as this may drive your friend away. Don’t imply that it’s their fault - Much domestic abuse involves gaslighting and emotional violence where the abuser will try to convince the survivor that the abuse is their fault. It’s important to never accidentally imply that the abuse is their fault. Statements like “I can’t believe you’re putting up with this” and “if I were you, I’d have left ages ago” are not helpful. Instead they give your friend the impression that somehow this abuse is their fault. Don’t try to pressure them - When talking to your friend it’s important not to force them into taking action before they’re ready, or trying to tell them to immediately leave their partner. They’re already experiencing pressure from the abuser, and you don’t want to add to this. Instead, try to inform them of options that they have, whether that be calling a helpline, or making contact with you regularly. Tell them you know it’s difficult - It’s important to let your friend know that you appreciate how hard talking about the experience must be, and how much it might be costing them emotionally to talk to you. Don’t push for too much information - It can be tempting to want to draw out all the incidents of abuse your friend has experienced so you can go through it all together. Instead try to be sensitive and remember that these incidents are likely linked to great trauma for your friend, and talking about them will be difficult. Rather than using forceful language, you can simply ask “has something happened that you’d like to talk about? It’s OK if not”. Don’t insist they leave - Your friend might not be ready to leave their abuser, in fact, they might not want to leave at all. Even if they do want to escape the abuse, constantly insisting that they move out, or find refuge, might just add more pressure to an already pressured situation. You can suggest the option, and let them know that it’s there, but don’t tell them what they *have* to do. If they choose to leave Support your friend however you can, whether that means giving them a lift, or helping them work through the process and sort out a plan. You can suggest things they should pack or prepare such as money, a passport or driving license, and a change of clothes, You can also help them find a safe place to go, whether that’s through a charity, refuge, the council, or simply a friend’s house. Remind them to turn location tracking on their mobile off if it’s active, and try to remove and internet history that could allow their abuser to find them. It’s also advisable to change social media and email passwords that might allow the abuser access to their information. Make them aware of the nearest police stations where they are currently living, and where they’re going to, and ensure that they know they can call 101 or 999 to call the police. Check if they’ve experienced any physical harm and suggest getting medical assistance. They might not have had access to a doctor or hospital for a while, depending on the nature of the abuse they experienced. Be aware that they may also be wary of going to a hospital or seeing a GP in case they ask questions about how the injuries happened. I’m really worried, they won’t talk to me Sometimes people experiencing domestic abuse or violence may sever contact, or for whatever reason, simply not reply to any of your messages. You don’t know what circumstances may have caused this change, but it can be extremely concerning. If they won’t respond you can consider checking up on their wellbeing through other family members or friends who may have heard from them. Don’t take the lack of contact personally. If you are extremely concerned and believe that they might be at risk, you can call 101 to speak to speak with the police, or you can call the National LGBTQ+ Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0800 999 5428 for advice.