It can be very difficult and worrying to watch somebody to care about experience abuse. However there are some things you can do which can make a difference.
Abusive people will often try to alienate the survivor from the people who care about them the most. By breaking down their sources of support the abuser can isolate them and increase their dependence on them further. Consequently the abusive person may try to make it very difficult for you to maintain your relationship. There may be a time when it is no longer safe to openly keep the relationship. Even if you do have to take a step back, you can do so whilst letting your loved one know that you will always be there for them if they ever need your support in the future. Even if they are not ready to take action right now, your ongoing support will make all the difference to them.
It is very rare for an abusive relationship to affect only the person directly targeted. If you feel that you are in immediate danger you can call 999 for emergency assistance. If you know that the abusive person does not like your relationship with your loved one, make a plan together so that you can communicate as safely as possible. These plans could involve for example, agreeing neutral meeting spaces, deciding not to communicate via text message, or using code words or signals. You may also be able to use professional recourses such as our warning signs page to help your friend begin to deconstruct the abusive behaviour.
Reach out for support
Lots of the calls we receive come from concerned friends and family members who are trying to support somebody they care about. If you are not sure if you are witnessing abuse you can refer to our list of “warning signs” or speak to a Domestic abuse service that will be happy to provide advice on how best to assist. However If the person concerned is looking for ongoing support, the agency will ask at some stage to speak to the person directly affected.
Give them time
It can be incredibly frustrating to watch somebody you care about return to an abusive relationship. It is important to remember the extent of the psychological control that the abuser has over them. It is also important to bear in mind that often survivors still love their abusers. It is a confusing and difficult situation to navigate and in most cases it takes several attempts before a survivor can leave for good. Give them time.