What can I do to support someone experiencing family violence?

If you know someone who is experiencing family violence, support them to make decisions in their own time. Go at their pace — let them know you are there for them.

Listen and don’t judge

If someone tells you they are experiencing family violence, they are putting their trust in you. They might tell you bits of information to see how you react before they decide whether to share more.

You need to show that you’re a safe person to share their concerns and feelings with. So, try to stay calm during your conversation and ask open ended questions where possible.

Show that you care by listening carefully, being respectful, and not forcing your own opinions and judgements on them.

Ask if they feel safe

Also ask whether they have tried to get support from any specialist services that they might trust as well.

Don’t ask for excessive or unnecessary detail. If the person you’re supporting doesn’t want to talk about something, don’t pry for that information. Remain available, reassure them and let them know that you are there to listen and talk if they want to.

Offer support, but let them make their own decisions

People experiencing family violence don’t need you to save them, although it is natural that you may feel that way. If you start telling them what to do, and what is best for them, you risk driving them away from you. Walking alongside them gives them more control over what happens next.

You can ask them whether they would like to get specialist support from a family violence service. If they say yes, they can contact one of the services on the bottom of this page.

Or, if they’re willing and want your support, you can help them make a plan to contact a service. Providing structure and writing things down can be a very useful way to provide support. Make sure to keep any notes confidential.

Two women sitting at a dining room table facing each

The person you’re supporting may not want to contact a family violence service. That’s okay – don’t tell them that they should, and don’t contact a service without their permission. Show that you care about them, you aren’t judging them, and you are there for them when they need you. You can also offer them some information that they can look at when they’re ready. They may find the links below useful:

Understanding unsafe relationships

Practical steps to safety

Let the person you’re supporting know that support is always available if they need it.

Leaving a violent partner can take time

Don’t give up on the person you’re supporting if they go back to a partner who is hurting them. It’s common for people to leave their partner, then go back to them several times. They’re not doing this because they want to go back to the violence.

Learn more about the barriers to seeking safety from family violence

Get help to provide support, and look after yourself

You don’t need to do this alone. The Family Violence Information Line can offer advice and connect you to organisations around New Zealand that can help.

Call 0800 456 450  for the Family Violence Information Line. This phoneline is available 24/7 and provides information, support and advice around family violence.

These situations can be complex. It’s important that you take care of yourself as well.

Learn more about looking after yourself as you support others

Call the police if someone’s life is in immediate danger

Dial 111 and ask for the police if you know someone’s life is in immediate danger.

A person’s life is in immediate danger if their partner’s pattern of behaviour includes:

  • death threats
  • unwanted strangling or choking
  • worsening violence
  • controlling behaviour
  • intimidation
  • intense jealousy and possessiveness

Call 111 now

Learn more about the signs that you are in a relationship with someone that could harm you