How you can support others

Is someone you know being abused?

For friends and family

It can be very distressing to discover your friend or family member is experiencing abuse, or to suspect they are experiencing abuse. What do you say? How do you help? Should you say anything?

Below are some tips and resources to help support someone who is experiencing family violence.

If you suspect someone is being abused

Often, the signs of abuse can be subtle and hidden from public view. A person doesn’t need to have physical markings to indicate they are experiencing family violence. They may also hide or minimise the abuse out of fear, guilt or shame.

If you suspect someone you know is being abused, it is very important to listen to your instincts, however uncertain you may be. What makes you question her safety? Some signs that your friend or relative may be experiencing family violence include (but are not limited to):

  • She has retreated from friends and/or family, spending less time with loved ones
  • She seems overly anxious to please her partner
  • She appears depressed or anxious, with a loss of self-worth
  • She has physical injuries with unlikely explanations
  • She has limited access to money and/or has to ask her partner for money
  • Her partner constantly calls/checks in on her, is jealous and possessive
  • She increasingly uses alcohol or other drugs to cope

These signs should not be ignored, however subtle or minimal they seem. How do you start the conversation? The most important thing you can do is be supportive, empathetic, kind and non-judgemental.

If someone tells you they are being abused

If someone you care about reveals abuse, it is very important to listen to and believe them. It takes an enormous amount of strength and courage to speak out and no experience should be minimised or dismissed. Often, women will downplay their own experience of abuse, out of fear, shame or embarrassment. As a supportive friend or family member, you can help her to understand that what she is experiencing is family violence, that it is not her fault and that nobody deserves to be abused. The use of violence is a choice made only by the perpetrator.

As a responsible and supportive friend or family member, you can:

  • Be non-judgemental. Let her tell her story without fear of judgement. Listening to her story and acknowledging her experiences will help empower her to seek help. Being supportive also includes respecting her decisions, whether or not you agree with them.
  • Offer practical help. What can you do to help her stay safe and feel supported? This could include things like researching Intervention Orders, accompanying her to a family violence service or police station, helping her set goals, minding her children, offering her a place to stay or transport options, or even cleaning her house and cooking her meals.
  • Empower her. Being respectful, kind and understanding can help reiterate that the violence is not her fault. Rather than telling her what you think she should do, ask open-ended questions that encourage her to reflect on the situation. It often takes many attempts to leave an abusive relationship for good, and risk is highest during separation. If she returns to the relationship, don’t criticise her decision; be understanding and offer your support, whenever she needs it.

If your friend or relative is in immediate danger:

  • Call 000 and ask for the Police

  • For crisis support, contact Safe Steps on 1800 015 188 24/7 or visit

  • If you or someone you care about is experiencing family violence, contact The Orange Door, Monday to Friday 9am-5pm. Find your nearest Orange Door Service via the website.

Where to go for more information
  • Safe and Equal has some very useful information on how family members and friends can talk to someone they suspect is experiencing abuse, including questions to ask and links to support services.CLICK HERE for more information. 
  • 1800 RESPECT / 1800 737 732 is the national sexual assault and domestic and family violence counselling service. They can provide 24/7 support and information to victims of domestic and family violence, as well as their friends and family. CLICK HERE for more information. 
  • The Women’s Information and Referral Exchange (WIRE) provides free and confidential information, support and referrals for women on any issue, including family violence. Call 1300 134 130 (Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm), or CLICK HERE for more information.
For professionals

As the public discourse on family and family violence grows, the secrecy around it diminishes. Family violence is (rightfully) no longer thought of as a ‘private matter.’ More and more women are feeling comfortable enough to disclose, and often their first point of contact is with a generalist service (GPs, Maternal Child Health Nurse, Dentist, Psychologist, etc).

If you are a professional providing a service to a client who is experiencing family violence in the eastern metropolitan region of Melbourne, download the Family Violence Referral Pathways in Melbourne’s Eastern Metropolitan Region Booklet.

If you are a professional providing a service to a client who is experiencing family violence, you can utilise the Multi-Agency Risk Assessment and Management Framework (MARAM) to evaluate their risk. The MARAM Framework has been established in law under a new Part 11 of the Family Violence Protection Act 2008. 

Download 'referral pathways booklet'
Family violence and the workplace

The total cost of family violence in Victoria was estimated at $15.3 billion in 2015-16 (source: KPMG Report May 2017, The Cost of Family Violence in Victoria). It increases occupational health and safety risks, decreases productivity and has both short and long-term health effects.

By supporting people experiencing family violence and adopting a ‘zero tolerance to family violence’, employers can be a part of a whole-of-community approach to preventing violence against women, as well as creating a supportive, safe place to work.

Safe and Equal provides detailed information on the signs of vicarious trauma and burnout and how family violence workers and employers can prioritise and protect workplace health and wellbeing. CLICK HERE for more information.

FVREE acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of this land and recognise their continuing connection to land, water and community. FVREE pays respect to Elders past, present and emerging.

FVREE acknowledges people from the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) communities, their children, pets and other animals, who are responding to family violence in the community.

FVREE respects all people who are responding to family violence, regardless of ethnicity, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, age and ability.

FVREE is a child-focused and child safe organisation.

  FVREE acknowledges funding from the Victorian Government