Friends and Family Toolkit
Friends and family members close to a victim of abuse can be considered a “bystander”. A bystander is someone who sees or knows about abuse, violence, discrimination or bullying that is happening to someone else, and they themselves are not the victim or perpetrator.
At some point you may be a bystander. There are numerous ways that you could become a bystander. For example, you could witness an abusive act toward a stranger or someone you know, you could be told about abuse by friends and family of a victim or perpetrator, have read a disclosure of abuse on social media or be told about it by a third party. Alternatively, you may notice some changes in your friend, family member or member of your mob and suspect that something is not right.
Bystanders are sometimes in a position to stop abuse from happening, to prevent abuse from escalating or to support someone involved.
Intervening is not always an easy decision to make: there are plenty of very good reasons why you might choose not to intervene in someone else’s abusive relationship. However, there might also be ways you can help that will not cause further harm to the victim, yourself or anyone else involved.
This toolkit is designed to help you, the bystander, overcome some of the barriers to intervention and provide support in situations where you know or suspect that someone is in an abusive relationship.
How Can This Toolkit Help?
If you know or suspect that someone is in an abusive relationship, you’ve come to the right place.
This toolkit is divided into three sections: Recognise, Respond and Recover.
Recognise: Is designed to help you recognise signs of abuse and overcome hesitations you have about intervention.
Respond: Provides information about what you can do to appropriately and safely intervene.
Recover: Helps you take care of yourself after you have intervened.
Download the full toolkit here.
Is It Abuse?
Abusive relationships don’t all look the same. Ultimately, it is about one person having control and power over another person or multiple people.
Abuse can take many forms and is frequently hidden, occurring out of sight or hearing of others. One particular situation may undoubtedly be abusive, yet another situation may not be as clear. For example, someone may disclose to you directly, by telling you that they are experiencing abuse. Alternatively, they might talk more generally about being afraid in their relationship, feeling trapped or like they are always “walking on eggshells”. They may recount experiences of being hurt or express concern for their safety. Perhaps you have noticed something that is not quite right and your gut feeling says that something is wrong, but you can’t be certain that it is abuse or not.
How Can You Help?
If you are concerned that your friend is being abused by a partner, has been sexually assaulted or if your friend is abusing their partner, the Respond section of the toolkit has some information about how to help.
What you decide to say or do will depend on the situation, and there are lots of actions you can take that don’t involve confrontation. Even a simple gesture can be powerful enough to show the person on the receiving end of the behaviour that they’re not alone.
Only step in when it is safe to do so! Avoid putting yourself at risk by always assessing the situation first and acting in a non-confrontational way.
What to Do Next?
There is no doubt that violence and abuse is upsetting. After witnessing or hearing about abuse, you may be struggling to cope with what has happened and how you’re feeling. You may feel sad, angry or helpless. If this is the case, it’s important that you seek help for yourself.
It may be hard not to get too involved in an abusive situation, especially when it involves someone you care about. In almost all situations involving abuse there will be a lot of emotions, which can lead to defensiveness, anger and misunderstandings. Do your best to remain calm and non-judgmental to ensure that the victim feels a sense of trust and knows they are supported, and the abuser is not triggered to commit more harm.