helping a friend or relative: your FAQs


At My CWA we take calls all the time from concerned friends or relatives about what they can do to help. There are several questions that come up time and time again, so we’ve listed some of them here to help you better understand your loved one’s situation.

Is domestic abuse a real issue?

Yes. Unfortunately, 1 in 4 women will experience abuse at some point in their lives. So, chances are, it’s happening to someone you know or love.

Two women every week are killed by their partner or ex-partner in England and Wales.

85,000 women are raped every year and 90% of them knew their abuser before the offence took place. So yes, domestic abuse is a very real issue indeed.

Shouldn't domestic abuse be dealt with behind closed doors?

Absolutely not. Many people still think domestic abuse should be dealt with behind closed doors. But by not speaking out against it, we become part of the problem. Domestic abuse shouldn’t be allowed to happen at all. It is a crime. Illegal.

We’re all affected by domestic violence in some way, so we all have a responsibility to speak out against it. You’ll find lots more on this subject at the Open the Door, a campaign designed to bring domestic abuse out into the open.

Wouldn't she just ask for my help if she needed it?

Not necessarily. It’s not always that simple. Only 16% of domestic violence is reported to the police. This means most victims suffer in silence.

By reaching out to a friend – to you – you can help break her isolation. Talking to a concerned friend or relative is often the first step a victim will make towards getting the help they need.

Why doesn't she just leave?

Be patient. On average it takes seven attempts at leaving before the process is completed. Some abusive partners manipulate their partners into staying.

Women who experience abuse often feel ashamed, confused and alone. They need their friends more than ever.

What if she just winds him up?

Domestic violence is a crime and should be treated with the same severity as any other violent crime.

Victims may believe they’re the cause of a violent outburst but violence is a choice made by the abusive partner, no one else.

Your friend might need you to point out that they’re not to blame before they can begin to accept that they didn’t cause it.

Remember, the only person responsible for abuse is the perpetrator. It is never the victim’s fault. Your friend is not to blame.

Why won’t she leave? I’ve told her to!

Ok, please stop telling your friend what to do! We know it can be frustrating and upsetting to see your loved one being hurt. But you can’t make this decision for her. It has to be her choice.

Having the confidence to leave an abusive relationship can take time. In fact, on average it takes five years for a partner to even identify abuse.

Then there are factors such as children, finances and low self esteem to consider. Your friend might not believe they can cope without their abusive partner. But you can help her to recognise the signs and take steps to stay safe.

If your friend feels supported and encouraged, she might feel stronger and more confident about making her own decisions.

He doesn't hit her. Is it still abuse?

In 2015, the UK passed a law making “coercive or controlling” domestic abuse a crime punishable by up to five years in prison – even if there is no physical violence present in the relationship.

The term 'domestic abuse' covers a range of actions and behaviours that can be just as damaging and just as long-lasting as physical violence. Read our understanding abuse pages to find out more.

What if her abuser is suffering from a mental illness?

There is no correlation between mental illness and domestic abuse. If you are unsure, a simple question to ask yourself is: "If this abusive man is mentally ill, why is it that he only abuses his partner – not his colleagues, strangers or friends?"

Millions of people suffer from mental illnesses without hurting the people they’re supposed to love. He’s not mentally unwell, he’s an abuser.

What if he only hits her when he's been drinking or taking drugs?

It’s true that alcohol and drugs can trigger an abusive situation, but they are by no means the underlying cause for abusive behaviour.

Plenty of people who drink or take drugs don’t abuse their partner. Equally, many sober men don’t drink or take drugs still abuse their partners. Drinking or drug taking is no excuse for domestic abuse.

There is no excuse for abusing anyone.

Visit our how you can help page for more about what you can do for a friend or family member who’s being abused. Or read up on domestic abuse warning signs. Contact us if you need support with helping a friend or family member.