Many women we see at Women’s Refuge have been supported in the journey to live free from abuse by people who have shown they cared. Whether friend, whànau / family or workmate your support can make a difference so don’t be afraid to raise the topic and offer your help.
Warning signs – people who are being abused may:
- Be restricted from seeing family and friends.
- Receive frequent harassing phone calls from their partner.
- Seem afraid or anxious to please their partner.
- Talk about their partner’s temper, jealousy, or possessiveness.
- Have frequent injuries, with the excuse of “accidents”.
- Frequently miss work, school, or social occasions, without explanation.
- Dress in clothing designed to hide bruises or scars (e.g. wearing long sleeves in the summer or sunglasses indoors).
- Have limited access to money or the car.
- Have very low self-esteem, even if they used to be confident.
- Be depressed, anxious, or suicidal.
Physical abuse does not have to be present for a relationship to be abusive. Domestic violence is a range of behaviours used to control and dominate the other person. Emotional abuse can be just as damaging as physical abuse – sometimes even more so.
Speak up if you suspect domestic violence or abuse.
If you suspect that someone you know is being abused reach out and start a conversation. It is ok to ask if something is wrong, express your concern, listen and validate, offer help and support them to make their own decisions. Suggest she seek help from a Women’s Refuge advocate or any agency specialising in domestic violence. Leaving can be the most dangerous time – threats and stalking should be taken seriously.
Some key pointers are:
- Take all abuse seriously.
- Don’t judge or blame.
- Be available to help when she needs you.
- Don’t force her into making decisions.
- Keep her information and plans private and confidential.
- Affirm her and her children’s right to live free from fear and violence.
They may have been told or believe that no one will believe them or help them. They may be ashamed, worried about being blamed for the abuse or have been told that they deserve it. Be patient and let them know you will try to be there for them again and again if needed. Women often make several attempts to leave before they are able to live free from violence and may feel judged or guilty and reluctant to reach out after returning to their partner and finding themselves in the same situation. Remember, abusers are very good at controlling and manipulating their victims. People who have been emotionally abused or battered are depressed, drained, scared, ashamed, and confused. They need help to get out, yet they have often been isolated from their family and friends.