October 22, 2020

How to React (Safely) If You Witness Domestic Violence

It can be really upsetting to see someone you care about, or even a stranger, being hurt or abused. Unfortunately, it’s all too common in the U.S.: On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner. During one year, that’s more than 10 million women and men facing abuse.

Incidents of domestic violence tend to increase during the holiday season. You can take steps to help:

Recognize the Signs of Abuse

Some warning signs to detect when someone is being abused include:

  • The abuser insults them in front of other people.
  • The abuser is overly jealous or possessive.
  • The abuser threatens to hurt their pets or has already hurt them.
  • The abuser destroys their property.
  • The abuser takes their money.
  • The abuser threatens to “out”the partner, if the person is part of the LGBTQ+ community.
  • They always worry about making the abuser angry.
  • They make excuses for their abuser's behavior.
  • They have unexplained bruises and marks.
  • They have stopped spending time with family and friends.
  • They are anxious or depressed.

What to Do If You’re a Witness

If you know and care for this person, these are the steps you can take to help them:

  1. Learn and pay close attention to the warning signs of an unhealthy relationship we have mentioned above.
  2. Approach your friend in a safe, private space, listen to them without interruption and believe what they have to say.
  3. Let your friend know that the abuse is not their fault and that they deserve better.
  4. Don't blame or guilt-trip your friend. Domestic violence is often terribly complicated, and many people stay in such relationships for various reasons. Lend a listening ear or a shoulder to lean on.
  5. Let your friend know that without intervention, things can only get worse. Convince them to seek expert assistance.
  6. Help your friend make a safety plan, pack important items and come up with a safe word that can be a signal for you to come and pick your friend up or call the police.
  7. If you live close by and hear the abuse happening, you can knock on the door and ask to borrow something as a way to stop the abuse.
  8. If you are concerned about your friend's safety, or your own, contact the police.
  9. If your friend decides to press charges against the abuser, your statement can be a way of helping them document what they've experienced.

If you're witnessing abuse in public, but you don't know the person, these are the steps you can take:

  1. Call the police.
  2. If you are in a restaurant, a store or any other place of business, approach the manager, notify them of the situation and ask them to immediately call the police.
  3. Use your phone to unobtrusively record the abuse so there is documentation from a witness. Then provide it to authorities as evidence. Just make sure to stay safe while recording.
  4. If there are other people around, you can shout for help.

Domestic violence is a difficult and complicated issue, and a person's safety is crucial. Before you take any of these steps, always remember to keep yourself safe first. If you or a loved one needs help with this or any other issue, Communicare is here for you. Take a look at our services and don't hesitate to contact us!