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4 things to remember when responding to someone who may be USING violence or abuse

It can be one of the most difficult conversations to have, but knowing how to respond if a colleague, team member, or friend discloses they have been using violence and / or abuse is very important.

There are several ways you may become aware of a person’s use of violence. The steps below are helpful if someone has stated they have used violence, and they want to change.  

Before we get started here are a few things to remember:

  • The safety of all people involved is paramount during these discussions and conversations.     
  • It is really challenging for an individual to face the hurt and harm they have caused others, but we’re not helping their journey of change when we minimise violence or find reasons to justify why someone was violent.  It is important violence is named and the person using violence is encouraged to find resources to help them change.
  • While it is important to help someone take action if you are worried about their safety or the safety of their family – it is also important to note someone making a disclosure should not be forced into taking action.  Remind them that violence is never okay, and that help is out there.
  • You might find it difficult to hear about a person’s use of violence. Be sure you take time to observe your own feelings and remember support is available for you too.  Remind the person that you care about them, and that you will continue to care about them as they start their journey towards becoming a safe person to be around.
  • If there is immediate danger – please ensure you are safe and call 000.
  • All other support services are listed below.

The following outlines how you can respond if someone discloses they are using violence or abuse in their relationship. This will generally take place in a one-on-one discussion when the person using violence is concerned about their own behaviour and reaching out for help. Please note a disclosure or concerning comments in a group setting may require a different approach:

1.         Discuss confidentiality

When it comes to challenging conversations, it can be difficult to know where to start. Generally, it is best to find a quiet, comfortable space to talk where you will not be interrupted or disturbed. As you are talking about harm to another person/s, confidentiality has its limitations.  Discuss this with the person, share with them what your limits are and what they expect.  Remind them that using violence and abuse is never okay, but there are many support services that can help them stop that behaviour.  

2.         Use open-ended questions

If someone has disclosed, they are using violence or abuse and is ready to talk – give them the space to open up. Consider using open-ended questions or examples like “tell me what is happening?”, “is there anything going on you might want to discuss?” or “what made you say something about this today?”

Alternatively, you could find you are saying the right things but the person you are speaking with is not ready to talk. This is completely fine. Remind the person you will be ready to listen when they are ready to talk and there are many ways to make a change.

3.         Practice empathy

While it may be difficult, try to avoid making judgements and show empathy throughout your discussion, including empathising with their goal to be a safe person, partner, and/or parent. Be mindful of your responses and acknowledge this is difficult subject matter and this must be hard to share. Also, allow for pauses and silence during the conversation. 

Be aware that the use of violence and / or abuse may be downplayed or blamed on others’ actions.  Always remind the person that there is never an excuse for violence, no matter how minor or seemingly justified and that help is out there for them and their family. 

Avoid arguing or trying to convince the other person to see things your way, as it can inflame the situation, making things less safe for the person’s partner. Keeping the lines of communication open allows you to be a helpful influence on the person’s thinking.

4.         Refer them to a support path

You do not need to be a counsellor or have all the answers – it’s not your job to fix them or their relationship problems. Rather, you should focus on finding the person using violence a support service they are comfortable with. Phrases like “what is the best way to give you support?”, “do you have someone you can talk to, to help with this?”, or even “what would you like to do next?” are all great questions you can use to ensure the person using violence has a plan to get support.

In some locations there may be a wait before the person can access a face-to-face behaviour change program, however phone-based services are always available, wherever they are. Encourage the person to stick with the plan – to get help for good. Once a crisis passes it’s tempting to ease off, but this issue needs prevention as well as cure. Domestic and family violence has a way of coming back into people’s lives unless it is dealt with properly.

At Challenge DV, we believe workplace training and education is a key to disrupting the cycle of abuse and violence. To find out more about getting your team educated contact the Challenge DV team today.

National Services

For details of State and Territory services, please click here.

No to Violence – 1300 766 491 | https://ntv.org.au/

DV Connect – https://www.dvconnect.org/ National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service – 24/7 service

www.1800respect.org.au | 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732).

Lifeline – 24/7 service | www.lifeline.org.au | 13 11 14

MensLine – 24/7 service | www.mensline.org.au | 1300 78 99 78

Services and Practitioners for the Elimination of Abuse (Queensland) | https://speaq.org.au/seeking-help/support-for-change/

Kids Help Line – 24/7 service | www.kidshelp.com.au | 1800 551 800

Translating and Interpreting Service | www.tisnational.gov.au | 131 450