If you think someone you know is or has been experiencing domestic abuse, there are lots of ways you can help them.
People’s reactions to experiencing domestic abuse can vary; they may be afraid, angry or have no outward reaction at all. They might even act in ways that seem unusual to you, even laughing at seemingly inappropriate times or trivialising what has happened to them.
Disclosures can come in many forms; it could be something said jokingly, a story that someone starts to tell then stops and says it doesn't matter, or it could be a question. You are not expected to be a professional counsellor; however how someone responds to a first disclosure can be really important. It can take time for a person to decide what they want to do and how they want to move forward.
- Are they in immediate danger? If they are in immediate danger or seriously injured, you can call 999 (or 112 from a mobile).
- Find a safe space. If an incident has just happened, try and find somewhere they feel safe. If this isn't possible and they are scared or fearful you can suggest they call security on 01772 892068 if they are on campus.
- The AAA Taxis ‘Take Me Home’ scheme allows you to use your UCLan ID Card as a deposit for journeys of £8 and under around Preston City Centre and the university area and pay later. You can reclaim your Card later from the Student Union Finance Office. The number for AAA Taxis is 01772 555444.
- Domestic Abuse is a crime of power and control. The most important thing is to respond in a way that maximises their choice and control over what happens next. You can simply ask them what they need or want. They might not make the same decision you would; however, only they can decide what is best for them. You can help them explore options, but avoid telling them what they should do.
- Domestic abuse can include emotional, psychological, physical, financial and sexual abuse in couple relationships or between family members. It can also include forced marriage, so-called “honour-based” violence and ritual abuse. Find out how to recognise the signs and where someone can get help.
- Many people may wonder why victims of domestic abuse don't leave the relationship. The TED talk below explores misconceptions many people hold and explains how we can all help break the silence.
- Listen. Just taking the time to listen to someone and talk about what has happened can help. These six active listening tips might help you support them.
- Thank the person for the disclosure and acknowledge that you believe them.
- Give options. When they have finished talking ask them if they are ok to talk through some possible options and next steps. Remember, it is important that they decide what they want to do.
- Independent Domestic Violence Advisors (IDVAs). For anyone experiencing domestic abuse, through contacting Lancashire Victim Services they will be able to speak to an IDVA. The IDVA will work with them to find the best way forward and they are specially trained to provide non-judgemental emotional support as well as practical help with issues including personal safety, housing and benefits.
- To a Wellbeing Advisor. In addition to providing wellbeing support for a range of issues that affect students, a Wellbeing advisor can talk through how to make a complaint and what support is available, in confidence.
- To Human Resources who can provide advice, guidance and signposting for staff.
- UCLan Students' Union Advice and Representation Centre. This is a free, confidential, impartial service where students can get advice and information on academic and personal issues, including advice on procedures and representation at hearings. The Advice and Representation Centre is also a third party Hate Crime reporting centre.
- Reporting to the police. If you're thinking of reporting to the police, Women’s Aid have put together some information on what to expect when you report domestic abuse to the Police and what happens next. If the incident occurred outside of Lancashire they can ring the Counselling, Mental Health and Wellbeing team on 01772 893020 to discuss how to contact their local Police force if they are unsure.
- Reporting the incident anonymously. You can call CrimeStoppers at any point on 0800 555 111 or use their online form.
- Report and Support. Students and staff can report an incident using the University’s Report and Support system. You can choose to do this anonymously or you can request support from an advisor. If you choose to talk to an advisor they will be able to talk through the options and support available to you, in confidence.
- They might not want to report to the police or the college. There are a lot of reasons why someone may choose not to report domestic abuse.
- They might be concerned that people won’t believe them or may not identify what is happening as domestic abuse.
- They may be concerned who else might be informed.
- They may be afraid of or confused about the criminal justice system or what happens if you report it to the university.
- Let them know that you believe them and support their decisions.
- Remind them that no one, regardless of relationship or status, has the right to hurt them and that no matter what, it is not their fault that this occurred.
- Connect them with resources that can help them understand what happens if you report to the police and or the university.
Things to avoid
- Just saying "it’s not your fault" (without listening to the survivor's story)
- Using key ‘catch phrases’ or common sayings – e.g. “it will all be better with time"
- Probing for details. Let them tell you what has happened in their own time
- Blaming them – e.g. “why don’t you just leave?” and “did you wind them up?”
- Showing disgust or shock
- Smirking and showing obvious disbelief
- "Why didn’t you say straight away? Why are you only coming forward now?"
- Trivialising the experience – “all couples have their arguments”
Mental Health and Wellbeing
1 in 4 people is affected by a mental health problem in any year and it is estimated that around 1 in 5 people has contemplated suicide or self-harm. Experiencing domestic abuse can have detrimental effect on a person’s mental wellbeing. If you are worried or concerned about the impact on someone’s mental wellbeing, find out more about how you can help them.
Take Care of Yourself
It’s important that you take care of yourself. If you’ve heard something distressing or if something is troubling you, the University's Student Wellbeing Service offers confidential help to students. If you are a member of staff, you can email the Staff Counselling service to request an appointment.