How to Open up to friends about domestic abuse
Self Care

How to Open Up to Your Friends About Domestic Abuse

AD | Opening up about being a victim of domestic abuse can be very difficult. Part of the nature of domestic abuse is that the victim is often made to feel as though it is their fault. Many victims of domestic abuse are afraid to speak up in case others don’t believe them. Abusers can act differently around others, so people who know them may not even be aware of their abusive tendencies. Experiencing domestic abuse is often very isolating, and one of the only ways to overcome it is to build and rely on a support network. Here are some tips on how to do this.

Have the Conversation

You might have been keeping the domestic abuse hidden out of fear of shame. It is a very heavy conversation that needs to be had in person rather than in writing or over the phone. You may prefer to open up to one friend at a time or gather a few of your closest friends to let them know what’s been happening to you. This first step in telling someone else you trust will be hard, so you should do whatever is the most comfortable for you. This could be going to someone else’s house to have a private talk if you are unable to do so in your own home. Make sure that the friends you tell will not speak to your abuser about this and that they are able to provide the kind of support that you need while you decide what you should do next. 

Set Boundaries

Usually, domestic violence victims just want to experience empathy. They just need a person to listen to them and believe them without judging. They don’t necessarily need or want the friend’s opinion of the abuser or advice on what they would do if they were in that situation. At the start of the conversation, you should let your friends know that this is a serious topic that you wouldn’t be speaking up about if you weren’t suffering. You don’t have to provide proof to try to make them believe you if they haven’t already seen evidence themselves. It is okay to let them know that you just need them to be there to listen and comfort you while you get things off your chest. Make it clear that you don’t want them to engage with your abuser.

How to Open Up To Friends About Domestic Abuse

Research Domestic Abuse

It can be difficult to verbalise the experience of domestic abuse in order to make your friends understand it if they are not already aware of the many different types of domestic abuse. It can be emotional abuse or even financial abuse, things that leave mental scars rather than physical bruises. You and your friends can go online to research domestic violence charities for professional advice on oppressive and abusive relationships. It will be easier to identify and acknowledge domestic abuse if you are learning more about it together and not trying to appease or defend your abuser. Looking at official sources will help you to validate your own experience and feel less alone. Seeing other examples will help your friends to understand.

Make a Plan

For most domestic abuse victims, their world is often drastically reduced by the controlling behaviours of their abuser. Removing yourself from this situation is not easy. This is where you will need to rely on your friends as your support network and let them know what they can actually do to help you. It is okay if you do not feel ready to take action yet; you can still make plans to ensure your safety in the future for when you do feel ready. For example, here are some of the things that your friends could do to support you through these difficult times:

  • Protect you from seeing your abuser if you do not live with them
  • Do damage control with your social circle if your abuser tries to spread lies about you
  • Never leave you alone with your abuser (or as little as possible)
  • Let you stay with them for a while if you decide to get away
  • Offer financial support to help you get back on your feet
  • Look after your children for you (if you have any) while you sort things out
  • Help to compile evidence against the abuser to take to the police
  • Go to the police, lawyer office, or court with them for moral support

Your focus should be getting out of the abusive situation and cutting the abuser out of your life as much as possible. Reporting your abuser to the police can be difficult, especially if there is no evidence of physical abuse that is easier to believe, but the fact is that domestic abuse of all kinds is a criminal offence and you have the right to be protected. Reporting domestic abuse to the police will also mean that you can then apply for CICA compensation. This is financial compensation for criminal injury from the government that can help you with recovering and rebuilding your life after suffering from domestic abuse for any length of time. 

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Sarah loves creating beauty content but also writes about health & lifestyle. She has several chronic illnesses that impact her life in many ways. It's made her a big mental health advocate.