It's everyone's responsibility to stop violent or controlling behaviour

...and if you have some insight into what's going on, you have a real opportunity to help.

It can be hard talking to a friend who is violent or controlling towards their partner. But, because you know the person, you have a better chance of making a big difference towards changing an unhealthy and potentially dangerous relationship.

Surfers at the beach


When and where to talk...

Timing is important. Bring up the subject as soon as possible, but at a time and place when they're calm and can talk privately. If you can't talk straight away, ask if you can catch up later. Remember, when someone's embarrassed or angry, they can get defensive and cover up what's really going on. So, for your own safety, and because there's a better chance of them talking openly, choose your time and place carefully.

What to say and how...

First, ask if they're ok and what's been going on - maybe mention you've noticed things seem to have gotten pretty intense in their relationship or that you're worried about them (and/or their partner). You may need to take it slow, and let them know they can trust you.

Listen to what they're saying. Violence, abuse and intimidation may be their ‘reliable' way of getting what they want or expressing what they really feel (e.g. embarrassed or ashamed). Don't be discouraged - if your gut's telling you something's not right you may need to just keep the conversation going until they open up to you or the truth starts to come out.

If they're regretful or embarrassed, they may already realise their behaviour isn't right, and you can start talking about getting some help. You can also try appealing to their empathy with stuff like, “What do you think she's feeling right now?” or “What would your folks think?” If they still need more convincing you can try talking about consequences (e.g. their reputation, guilt and shame, police charges, health problems like depression).

Explain that violence and control are unacceptable and never an option, and that there's plenty of help around to start working on their behaviour, and to stop being violent or controlling.


  • Be ready to leave the conversation if things get out of hand - talking to someone who already has trouble controlling their emotions or temper has risks, and you need to know when to quit or ease off.
  • Be patient - It's hard for others to tell you things they're ashamed of. Few people will tell you the whole story straight away.
  • Think about what you'll do if you're told something you can't keep secret, like the admission of an assault or other criminal act, or the risk of something like this occurring in the near future.

Obviously, if you think anyone's in immediate danger call 000 straight away. And there are other people to talk to - both for advice and with help talking to your mate. If you really can't talk to friends or family, you can contact a telephone counsellor for an independent, informed opinion, like 1800 MYLINE (1800 695463) or the Men's Referral Service (1300 766 491). Also check out our other info on stepping up, and what to do when someone's crossing the line...