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Worried about someone you know?

It is not always easy to know how to support someone who is subjected to domestic abuse, but there are some simple steps you can take that can make a difference if someone tells you they are being abused.

There are many reasons why people do not always disclose that they are being abused; if you are worried about someone, don’t be afraid to ask if they are being abused. Try to be compassionate but direct and tell them you are worried and concerned about their safety. Everyone will react differently, and some people may feel defensive and that the abuse is their fault, so give them time to open up, listen without critisising, and let them know that you believe them. It takes strength to trust someone enough to confide in them about being in an abusive relationship.


You may have noticed that something is not quite right in a neighbour, friend, colleague, or family member’s relationship. This might be that their partner or a family member is very controlling, that they seem anxious around them, or you may have noticed injuries or bruising. Many people think that domestic abuse is physical violence within a relationship. Although that may be true of some cases, most involve controlling behaviour, jealousy, putting someone down and isolating them from people close to them. Many people who are experiencing abuse say that they feel that they are walking on eggshells. There may be no physical violence but that does not make the abuse less harmful or dangerous. Domestic abuse can occur in many different types of intimate or familial relationships; after a relationship has ended and when an adolescent is abusive to a parent. It can affect anyone. It may be difficult for the person experiencing abuse to know what is happening. They may hope that the abusive person can change or put the behaviour down to increased stress or some other difficulty in their lives. Abusive people will often blame the non-abusive person for their behaviour and can convince people around them, friends, neighbours, and the community, that they are a good person, making it harder for the person experiencing abuse to get help.

Some of the warning signs are as follows:

  • There may be arguments and shouting.
  • They may feel they are walking on eggshells and are worried about what their partner will think or say.
  • There may be changes in their behaviour, demeanour or outward appearance.
  • They may have become anxious or withdrawn. You may see them less or only with their partner or the abusive family member.
  • They may be inundated with emails, messages, or social media posts.
  • They may seem inseparable from their phone or insistent that they check it very often or check-in with their partner.
  • They may become less outgoing and may avoid people and conversations.
  • They may socialise less and make excuses for not coming to meet-ups or taking calls.
  • They may be isolated from friends and family.
  • They may be prevented from attending appointments, cancel last minute, need to leave early to get back to their partner.
  • They may always be accompanied to appointments, never allowed to do things alone, being ferried around or picked up.
  • They may never want to leave home or avoid going back.
  • They may not have access to their own money or be unable to do the things they used to. They may have to ask permission to spend money or be given a restrictive allowance.
  • There may be constant jibes, criticism, or they may be called names or be blamed for everything.
  • They may have injuries, bruises, and marks – Injuries may be difficult to explain or leave marks and bruises that don’t seem to match the explanation. People may try to hide their injuries with clothing or make-up.
  • There may be damage to property.
  • There may be animal abuse.
  • There may be stalking and harassment, including unwanted gifts, messages, surveillance and following someone.

Many people will be reluctant to seek support, or they may confide in family members or friends in the first instance. Here are some things you can do if you are concerned or if someone close to you confides in you:

If you are worried about someone:

  • Look out for warning signs of abusive behaviour.
  • Check in with them regularly, a simple text message or phone call, if it is safe to do so.
  • Try to find a safe time and place to talk honestly.

If someone close to you confides in you:

  • Keep calm, reassure them that help is available.
  • Avoid giving your opinion or making judgemental statements.
  • Let them know that you are worried about them.
  • Discuss the behaviour that concerns you. Avoid talking about the abusive person or calling them names.
  • Ask if they feel safe or if they would like some help. You may be able to set up a signal or code word to raise the alarm.
  • Give them IDAS contact details or make a referral with their consent.

What else can I do?

  • Familiarise yourself with the safety planning information on the IDAS website.
  • Take the IDAS free online training.
  • Seek support yourself, share with a trusted friend or family member or contact IDAS for support.

There are some things that you should avoid doing if someone confides in you:

  • Ignore the warning signs.
  • Pressurise them to talk if they do not want to.
  • Overreact, panic, or look shocked.
  • Promise more than you can give.
  • Call the abusive person names or talk negatively about them. Focus on the behaviour that is of concern.
  • Imply or suggest that the abuse could be their fault.
  • Tell them what to do.
  • Advise them to leave the relationship. This can put them at increased risk.
  • Take decisions out of their hands.

The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (DVDS) is often called ‘Clare’s Law’ after the domestic homicide of Clare Woods in 2009.

The aim of Clare’s Law is to help individuals make informed choices on whether to continue a relationship if their partner has a history of abuse. Support will be given to assist in these decisions.

Clare’s Law allows any individual the right to ask the police if they feel their partner may have a history of abuse which poses a risk to them. Any third party can also make enquiries into the partner of a close friend or family member.

Once a Clare’s Law application has been made, Police and partner agencies will carry out a range of checks. If these reveal a record of abusive offences, or suggest a risk of violence or abuse, the Police will consider sharing this information

If it is decided a disclosure should be made, this will only be made to the person at risk. The Police will not inform the person who requested the information.

Any disclosure will be made in person; for safety reasons the disclosure is not made in writing and no documentation will be given.

How to make an application
  • Phone 101 (the non-emergency police number)
  • Visit a local Police Station
  • If you believe there to be an immediate risk of harm phone 999

If you are concerned that someone is in immediate danger you should always dial 999. You can dial 101 in a non-emergency. If you would like to report anonymously you can contact Crime stoppers on 0800 555 111.

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