Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence

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Domestic Violence: Finding Safety and Support - Friends, Family and Co-workers

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I Think That Someone I Know Is Being Abused. How Can I Help?

Many people who are abused by their intimate partner either don't know who to turn to or have had bad experiences when they've reached out for help. Your willingness to help can be important to a victim in her safety planning efforts. But while being willing and well-meaning is good, being ready to offer the kind of help that's needed is even better.

Possible Signs of Domestic Violence

The effects of domestic violence can show up in many different ways. Being aware of these effects will not only help you better understand the experience, but will help you better identify someone who is being abused.

Visible signs of physical injury include:

Someone who is being abused might try to hide injuries that can be seen from others. One sign of this might be someone who suddenly starts wearing long-sleeve shirts or turtlenecks in the summer or sunglasses indoors when they never did before.

Illnesses that may be related to being abused include:

In the workplace, the effects of domestic violence can be seen as:

Behavior changes you may notice that could be a sign of abuse include:


How Can I Know For Sure?

The only way to know for sure if someone you know is being abused is to ASK. You should always have this conversation in private. A common myth about people who are abused is that they don't want to talk about what is happening to them. It is true that some people do try to hide the abuse, but they often do so because they are afraid of being embarrassed, their partner finding out, being blamed, not being believed, or being pressured to do something they're not ready or able to do.

Let them know that you're concerned about their safety and that you're willing to help.

Keep it simple. If there are specific things you have noticed that you are worried about, you might say something like, "I noticed 'x, y and z' and I'm worried about you. Is there anything I can do to help?" Or, "It seems like you're stressed out and unhappy. If you want to talk about it now or some other time, I'll keep it between us." People are sometimes afraid to approach a woman about their concern for her safety because they feel that it is "none of their business," or that their offer of help will be unwelcome. But the idea that "what happens behind closed doors" is off limits is something that has contributed to the problem of domestic violence. Even if the person is not ready to talk about it when you first approach them, they might come to you later now that they know you care.

If you ask, be prepared to respond supportively

There are many things you can do to prepare yourself to offer supportive and empowering assistance.

What You Can Do




Express concern.

Listen and validate.

Offer help.

Support her decisions.


Wait for her to come to you.

Judge or blame.

Pressure her.

Give advice.

Place conditions on your support.