How to talk with someone who may be experiencing family violence
Aroha and patience matters. You’re giving them the chance to open up.
Find the right time and a safe place to talk
Find a time and place that’s appropriate and without distractions – where you’re alone and the person you’re worried about feels safe.
Make sure you’re prepared for what could be a difficult conversation. If you don’t feel ready or prepared, do it another time.
Respect the person if they change the arrangement. They may not feel ready to talk. Or they may be keeping themselves safe.
Their partner may be watching them closely and may stop them from meeting friends or family. There’s also a risk that their partner may punish them if they think the person is seeking help. These conversations are important and it’s worth thinking about the risks the person may face when talking with others about their safety.
Ask if they’re okay — show that you’re worried about them.
Think about how you want to make the other person feel with your body language and tone. You need to be calm rather than angry or confrontational. Don’t stage a talk as an ‘intervention’.
Talk about care, kindness, support, empathy.
Tell them what you’ve noticed
Stick to the facts and don’t assume anything – talk about what you’ve noticed and why you’re concerned, rather than what you feel or think. Telling someone that they’re experiencing family violence is too direct and makes too many assumptions about their experiences. It may put them off talking to you.
Maybe you’ve noticed something, but there is someone else who is better suited to having the conversation.
Instead, focus on the specific things that you’ve noticed and let them know there are people who care about them and their safety.
It is up to them to decide
If someone is experiencing family violence, they need to be able to make their own decisions about getting help, and to get help at their own pace.
If the person you’re worried about doesn’t want to talk, don’t try to force them. Similarly, if they don’t respond in the way you expect, don’t tell them they’re wrong or force your views on them.
Someone who’s experiencing family violence may react badly to you trying to help. They may be scared, and their partner may be controlling them. It doesn’t mean you are wrong for offering help, but you should not force your help on them when they are not ready.
Keep your offer to talk open-ended
Let them know that they can talk to you when they feel ready, and that other support is available if they need it.
Check in with them again if you keep noticing things that make you concerned. Make sure they know you’re there for them when they’re ready to talk.
Keep yourselves safe if you keep talking
Make sure the abuser cannot find out about you and the person staying in touch, and any help you offer. For example, consider using code words and phrases — ‘Getting milk from the supermarket’ could mean ‘Call the police’. Meet in places where they are allowed, which may be public.
Learn more about practical steps to safety