First up, if you're worried someone might be in immediate danger you need to contact police on 000, or talk to someone at 1800MYLINE (1800 737 732) the National Sexual Assault, Family & Domestic Violence Counselling Line available 24/7.

When you think something might be wrong...

Sometimes it's hard to know what's going on in someone else's life - and it can be difficult figuring out if a friend's in an ugly or violent relationship. Most often, violence happens in private and people don't talk about what's happening to them because they're embarrassed, upset or scared.

But if you see someone acting ugly or disrespectful, if you hear a friend say weird, controlling stuff about their partner, or if you just know something isn't right in a friend's relationship, the best thing you can do to help out your friend is to listen to them.

Sometimes just taking someone aside where you can speak alone and asking them - in a non-judgemental way - if everything's ok, or asking if something's up with their relationship, can start the conversation. They might not open up straight away, but at least they'll know you're there for them when they are ready. It might seem like a small thing, but it can make a huge difference.

When they are ready to talk about it...

It can be pretty full on when a friend tells you their partner is being violent, abusive or controlling. You might even know the person they're talking about and think, "But they'd never do something like that". But just because you haven't seen the violence, doesn't mean it isn't happening.

Here are some DOs and DON'Ts in this situation:

DO: 

  • Listen to what they're saying - let them talk as much or as little as they need to and don't interrupt to ask lots of questions.
  • Believe them and take it seriously - talking about violence in a relationship is really hard to do.
  • Check they're safe - violence is never ok, and it can escalate quickly.
  • Reassure them it's not their fault, that you understand how they feel, and that you're there to help them.
  • Offer to help find advice or go with them to a counsellor.
  • Check in with them later (in private) and make sure they're ok - let them know you're available whenever they need you.

DON'T:

  • Don't ask them a whole lot of questions, which can make them feel like you're judging them or not believing what they're saying.
  • Don't criticise their partner, which can make them defensive and close up.
  • Don't tell them you'll sort the problem out for them - it's really important they decide what they want to do.
  • Don't be impatient if they're not sure what to do or if they want to stay in the relationship - let them decide what to do and support their decision (even if you don't agree with it).
  • Don't get angry, upset or aggressive - it can be hard to hear about this stuff, but it's important to stay objective to support them.

Information and support

If you're feeling like things aren't ok in a relationship, you might like to check out these websites for more info.

If you or someone you know is experiencing violence there are support services available in your State or Territory. Below are some Australia-wide services for people who need information or support. If you want more info about the specific services available in your state or territory, speak to your school counsellor, your GP or drop in to your local community health centre.

1800MYLINE (1800 737 732) the National Sexual Assault, Family & Domestic Violence Counselling Line available 24/7.

Kids Help Line (ph 1800 551 800 or e-mail and web counselling at www.kidshelp.com.au)

Also check out our other articles on bystander action and articles on relationships for ideas on what to do when you think something might be crossing the line...