Women's Aid Federation Northern Ireland

24 Hour Domestic Violence Helpline
0800 917 1414

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I think my friend's partner has a drinking problem. Could that be the cause of the violence?

Although alcohol or drug use may intensify an already existing violent behaviour, it does not cause it.  People who abuse typically make excuses for their violence, claiming a loss of control due to alcohol/drug use or extreme stress.  Domestic violence, however, does not represent a loss of control, but a way of achieving it.

How can my friend still care for someone who abuses her?

Chances are, her partner is not always abusive. The abuser may actually show remorse for his violence, promising that he will change.  your friend understandably hopes for such change.  Their relationship probably involves a cycle of good times, bad-times and in-between times.  However, the longer the violent relationship continues, the less likely there will be any good times at all.

Lately my friend has been distant. I don't know if we're still friends.

The abuser senses that the fewer relationships his partner has, the more easily he can control her. He may be extremely jealous of any relationships his partner has outside the home. An abused woman may distance herself from friends fearing that they will discover the violence and blame her for it.  

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 If my friend wanted my help, she would ask for it.

Your friend may not yet eel comfortable confiding in others, feeling that they will not understand her situation.  Try talking to her about the problem of domestic violence in a general way.  For example, you might mention a documentary or talk show about domestic violence that you've seen.  Tell your friend you are concerned about people who must endure abuse in relationships.  Let your friend know you do not blame victims for the violence.

What YOU Can Do

 Become Informed 

Gather all the information you can about domestic violence. Contact Women's Aid and services in your area that assist abused women and their children. Women's Aid Refuges not only offer women safety, but also provide advice, support and other needed services for abused women.  Woman's Aid can give you information about the issue of domestic violence and referrals to support services. 

Sometimes your own feelings about the violence may make it difficult for you to confront the situation. Contact your local Women's Aid for help and talk to staff about your concerns. Women's Aid can be an excellent source of support for both you and your friend.

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Lend a Sympathetic Ear 

Letting your friend know that you care and are willing to listen may be the best help you can offer. Don't force the issue, but allow her to confide in you at her own pace. Keep your mind open and really listen to what she tells you. Never blame your friend for what's happening or underestimate her fear of potential danger.

Remember that your friend must make her own decisions about her life. Focus on supporting your friend' s right to make her own choices. 

Confront Your Friend With the Danger 

At some point, you may find it difficult to be supportive of your friend if she remains in the violent relationship or returns to the abuser. Tell her that not everyone lives with abuse. Be willing to confront her with the physical and emotional harm that she and the children will suffer if she stays. Help your friend face up to the dangerous reality of living with an abusive partner. Remind her that even a push or a shove can result in serious injury. 

Guide her to Community Services

When your friend asks for advice on what she should do, share the information you've gathered with her privately. Let your friend know she is not alone and that caring people are available to help her. Encourage her to seek the assistance of Women's Aid or the domestic violence Helpline. Assure your friend that any  information she shares with them will be kept strictly confidential. 

 Many abused women first seek the advice of marriage counselors, psychiatrists, or members of the clergy. Not all helping professionals, however, are fully aware of the special circumstances of abused women. If the first person your friend contacts is not helpful, she should be encouraged to find assistance elsewhere.   

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Help Your Friend Develop a Safety Plan 

Encourage your friend to develop a plan to protect herself and her children. Help her think through the steps she should take if her partner become abusive again. Make a list of people your friend can call in an emergency. 

Suggest that she put together and hide a bag of clothing, personal items, money, social security books, bank cards, the children' s birth certificates and other important documents.

Focus Of Her Strengths

Abused women live with emotional as well as physical abuse. Your friend is probably continually told by the abuser that she is a bad person, a bad wife, and a bad mother. Without positive reinforcement from outside the home, she may beg into believe she can't do anything right -that there really is something wrong with her. 

Give your friend the emotional support she needs to believe that she is a good person. Help her examine her strengths and skills. Emphasize that she deserves a life that is free from violence. 

If She Decides to leave

The first place your friend should call is the local Women's Aid Group or Help line. Staff at the Women's Refuge can help your friend examine the options. If she decides to leave, the refuge may be the safest place she can go. Women's Aid refuges provides emergency accommodation and support to women who need to leave an abusive home. The refuge, which is accessible 24 hours a day, is located at a confidential address. W omen and their children who have been abused or threatened with abuse may stay for as long as necessary. Staff work one-to-one with each resident to discuss options and to provide support in dealing with financial, employment, housing, legal and emotional problems. Self-help also operates within the group of women who reside at the refuge.  

Be very careful when offering and providing safety in your home. The abused woman frequently faces the most physical danger when she attempts to leave. Be very discreet and talk to Women' said staff about the best way to handle this.  

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Be a friend in deed 

Tell your friend you're there for her when she needs you. Provide whatever you can : transportation; child care; financial assistance.

When to Intervene 

It cannot be over emphasized that domestic violence is a crime that can result in serious physical injury and even death. If you are a neighbour or otherwise know that violence is occurring, call the police immediately. Calling the police does not always mean the abuser will be put in jail. It is simply the most effective way to protect the victim and her children from immediate harm.

How to Contact Your Local Women's Aid Group

Women' s Aid can offer emergency accommodation for women and

Women' s Aid also offers a 24 hour Helpline to women involved in an abusive relationship. All conversations are confidential and callers do not have to give their names or identifying information.

To find your nearest Women's Aid group click here  

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Contact Us:  129 University Street Belfast. BT7 1HP  Tel:(028) 90 249041 Fax:(028) 90 239296  
General email: [email protected]


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