Abuse: 5 Tips If Someone You Know Is Being Abused

shame, isolation, fear, denial, abuse, abused, Headroom

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An abused person needs your support

Someone who is being abused may not ask for it directly, but if you express your concern, it may help them to break the silence and seek assistance.  The victim of abuse may be experiencing shame, isolation, embarrassment and denial of the severity of their situation.

Many victims say fear, shame and embarrassment are powerful barriers to their seeking help.


What you can do

Let the victim know you care and that you are concerned about their safety.  Gently ask direct questions about the person’s situation.  If they do not want to talk, try again another time.

If they disclose information about their situation:

  • Listen to what the person says.
    Give the person time and space to talk without interruptions.
  • Believe what the person says.
    Some situations may sound different than anything you may have experienced.  Let the abused person know that you believe them and that you believe the violence will not go away on its own, but will only get worse.
    If you were ever abused, share your experiences; this may help the person feel that they are not alone.
  • Keep what they tell you confidential.
    Shame and embarrassment are barriers for victims seeking assistance, but fear of what the batterer may do to them for telling about the abuse is a deadly risk this victim may be taking to tell you their story.
    Keep them safe – don’t talk about it without their permission
  • Allow the person to make his or her own decisions.
    Don’t rush to give opinions or tell the abused person what to do.  Offer options if you are familiar with options.
    If you are not sure about options, help the person seek the assistance of a domestic violence advocate. Always respect the person’s right to make their own decisions.  The most empowering thing you can do is honor that right. Whatever you do, do not give up.


What not to do

  • Do not blame the victim for the abuse.
    Questions like, “What did you do to provoke him?” put the responsibility for the abuse on the victim instead of the person who was abusive.
    Explain that they are not alone and that the abuse is not their fault. Explain that there is no excuse for domestic violence.
  • Do not discriminate against the person by judging, blaming, or assuming stereotypes that explain away the abuse


What to do if you hear or see an assault in progress

  • Call 911 and report the incident.
    For many reasons, you may not be comfortable calling the police.
    If the incident was a burglary, fire, or stranger assault, would you be as uncomfortable? Domestic violence is an assault on a person that can be deadly.  It is a crime and that makes it your business.
  • Report as many details as possible
    Include parties involved, location, license plate, if weapons are involved.
  • Assess the situation carefully before deciding how to intervene.
    These incidents can be dangerous.  You can create attention to the scene by honking your horn or trying to draw a crowd.


Would you like to speak with one of Headroom’s professionals about your relationship or safety?


Headroom is South Africa’s first independent online platform enabling fast, affordable and discreet access to a wide range of licensed professionals, for anyone seeking mental, emotional or social support.

Anyone with an internet connection can book, pay and consult with a suitable professional from the comfort of their device and receive confidential support via secure live video sessions.

Headroom lists licensed and experienced psychologists, social workers and counsellors, who provide their services at varying times and costs, suitable to any budget.

Headroom lowers the barriers of ACCESS, STIGMA and COST and harnesses global standard healthcare technology to make it possible for anyone to reach out to licensed therapists. Conveniently, privately and confidentially.


Emergency contacts

If you or anyone you know are being abused, in a crisis or may be in danger, please use the following resources to get immediate help:



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