How to Support Someone Who is Experiencing Family Abuse

A guide for family and friends 

1. RECOGNISE the signs:

 What might be the signs that someone is in an abusive relationship?

  • Family Abuse is not just physical violence. It involves any behaviour designed to control another person or make them live in fear. This can be verbal, mental, emotional, financial and social abuse.
  • The abuse may be hidden within the relationship. It is not always obvious to outsiders that someone is experiencing family abuse.
  • A person who is experiencing family abuse is often very isolated. They may have stopped connecting with family and friends. They may also have stopped doing their hobbies or other interests.
  • Often their partner is the decision maker in the relationship. This includes controlling finances and making decisions about what they do or who they see.
  • There may be signs of physical injury such as bruising or broken bones.
  • They may talk about their partner getting angry, or appear worried about pleasing them.
  • Their partner constantly calls or appears to monitor what they are doing. 

You can find more information about recognising signs of family violence and abuse here:

Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria (DVRCV)  

Safe Steps Family Violence Resource Centre  

2. RAISE your concerns "safely"

How can I help?

Safety is always the priority.

Often the person experiencing family abuse will feel that they are to blame for their family member’s behaviour. Often this will be a male partner, but this is not always the case. 

If it is safe to do so you can have a conversation.

  • You can start by asking them if they are OK.
  • Don’t pressure them to talk to you.
  • Let them know you can talk later if they are not ready to talk now.

There are a range of ways you can offer support during a conversation.

  • Believe what they are telling you.
  • Help them to recognise that they are in an abusive situation and the behaviour is not OK.
  • Help them to understand that the abusive behaviour is not their fault.
  • Help them to think about a safety plan and what they can do to keep themselves and others safe.
  • Let them know there are places they can go to get help.

 Disclosing their experiences of family abuse is an important first step in seeking support and lessening their isolation.

It is important not to tell someone experiencing family abuse what to do or to judge them if they choose to stay in their relationship.

Next steps

Respect their choices if they are not ready to leave. There may be many complex reasons a person may choose to stay with a partner who uses family abuse.

It can take great courage, and be highly risky to leave family abuse. Women are most at risk when they decide to leave or immediately after they have left a partner who chooses to use family abuse.

Someone who wants to leave family abuse may need to consider:

  • personal safety
  • keeping children and pets safe
  • having a safe and secure place to go to
  • being financially independent and accessing money
  • accessing appropriate support (medical, counselling, financial, family and friends etc)
  • maintaining stability for children (medical needs, schooling, friends and community)
  • knowing their rights and options.

3. REFER victim to support or Make the call yourself!

What help is available?

** If you are concerned for yourself or someone else’s immediate safety call 000.**


Safe Steps (Women’s Domestic Violence Crisis Service)

24 hour telephone crisis counselling, information, referral and support for women experiencing domestic violence. Phone 1800 015 188

Lifeline Australia

24-hour counselling to anyone within Australia. You can talk to them about any problem, big or small. Phone: 13 11 14


24 hour counselling and support service for people impacted by sexual assault, family violence. Phone:  1800 737 732 

Women's Support Line

Run by Women's Information and Referral Exchange Inc. you can call this free, confidential and state-wide phone service on 1800 811 811 (9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday). You can also email

Kids Helpline
Kids Helpline provides private and confidential 24/7 phone and online counselling for children, teens, young adults and also for parents and carers on 1800 55 1800 (toll-free).
Email: Counselling and WebChat is also available.

Australian Childhood Foundation
Counselling for children and young people affected by abuse. Phone: 1300 381 581 Email: Website:

What's OK at Home?
This website for young people has been developed by the Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria. It has been designed to help people understand what family violence is, why it happens, how to recognise it and how to help others who are experiencing it. Website: Phone: Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800

The Line – Website for young people
So, 'the line': What is it, Where is it, and What happens when you cross it?
Sometimes, there’s no argument about where to draw the line in our friendships and relationships. But the line can get blurry. So, we’re here to talk about it. This website talks about relationships, gender, sex, bystander action, technology and communication ; how to keep it healthy and respectful, and avoid crossing the line into behaviour that makes someone feel frightened, intimidated or diminished.
So, check out our articles, #knowseetheline, follow us on Facebook and join the conversations about where you draw the line.

Men's Referral Service
Men’s Referral Service provides an anonymous and confidential phone counselling, information and referrals service on 1300 766 491 for:

  • men who might be using violent and controlling behaviour towards a partner or family member
  • men who have been victimised by a partner or family member
  • women wishing to find information about male family violence
  • friends, family or colleagues of people who are using or experiencing family violence
  • professionals wishing to support a male or female client using or experiencing family violence.

MensLine is a national phone and online support service for men with family and relationship concerns, which includes video counselling on 1300 78 99 78

Victims Support Agency – Men
The Victims Support Agency provides support and information to help adult male victims of family violence and victims of violent crime. The service guides victims through the legal process and helps manage the effects of crime through practical assistance and counselling. Call the Victims of Crime helpline on 1800 819 817 or use the text service via 0427 767 891 (8.00 am to 11.00 pm, 7 days a week).

Centres Against Sexual Assault
These are confidential, non-profit, government-funded organisations providing support and intervention for women, children and men who are victim survivors of sexual assault. The Sexual Assault Crisis Line is 1800 806 292 (24/7). You can also email:

Relationships Australia
Support groups and counselling on relationships, and for abusive and abused partners. Phone: 1300 364 277

Aboriginal Family Domestic Violence Hotline
1800 019 123 (24 hours) Victims Services has a dedicated contact line for Aboriginal victims of crime who would like
information on victims’ rights, how to access counselling and financial assistance.

Aboriginal Family Violence Prevention and Legal Service (FVPLS)
This is an Aboriginal community-run organisation providing assistance to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander victim survivors of family violence and sexual assault. You can call FVPLS on 1800 105 303

InTouch: Multicultural Centre against Family Violence
This is a state-wide organisation specialising in services, programs and responses to family violence in migrant and refugee communities. You can call InTouch on 1800 755 988

National Disability Abuse and Neglect Hotline
Visit website: An Australia-wide telephone hotline for reporting abuse and neglect of people with disability. Call the free hotline on: 1800 880 052

Our Place Online
An online forum for men and women who have suffered abuse in all its forms: psychological, verbal, physical, sexual, and spiritual abuse. The forum is run by a community of volunteers all over the world. Our Place aims to help educate and support those wishing to heal from the damage done. Website:

Translating & Interpreting Service
Call the hotline for help 131 450 Gain free access to a telephone or on-site interpreter in your own language. Immediate phone interpreting is available 24 hours every day of the year on: 131 450

Share this with your friends