What To Do When Your Friend's Been Hit By Her Boyfriend
The Debrief: Domestic violence affects 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men, so there is a high risk you or a close friend will be assaulted by a partner before the age of 30
This week domestic violence was back on the agenda (arguably it should never be taken off ) with the Sun's Give Me Shelter Campaign, which calls on the government to reopen the women's refuges that have been closed down as part of budget cuts.
There's nothing good to say about domestic violence - from the constant victim blaming and immediate loss of sympathy if a survivor returns to her partner, right through to the low prosecution rates and chronic shortage of refuges. On top of all this, many of us still don’t expect domestic violence to impact our own lives. We hold onto to the popular stereotype that domestic violence only affects women with children, living with their partners. But the demographic most at risk of sexual assault, stalking and domestic violence are actually teenagers with that risk falling only slightly lower for women in their 20s. Domestic violence affects 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men, so there is a high risk you or a close friend will be assaulted by a partner before the age of 30.
In the last decade three of my close friends, Hermione, Katniss and Arya*, have been assaulted by their partners. After chatting with them this is my guide for supporting a friend who has been attacked by her partner.
Follow Her Lead
Everything here is written under the assumption that you are actually listening to your friend. It may be that she’s handling everything like a champ and doesn’t need you constantly popping up and reminding her of 'this really useful list I saw on The Debrief' or it might be that she’s kind of falling apart and would appreciate some more proactive support.
She may have already been told these things by other people but if in doubt let her or her primary support system know:
• If possible, report the attack from the same post code/borough that it happened in. Calling the police from a different borough can delay the process by two days.
• Getting breathalysed will mean that her partner cannot claim she was too intoxicated to understand what was happening or injured herself while drunk.
• It is important that she asks to be seen by a medical professional who specialises in domestic violence cases. This is because she will need someone who is medically licensed to confirm that it was domestic abuse and it also means the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) are more likely to prosecute.
This is obviously on a case by case basis but knowing this stuff can massively reduce your friend’s stress, should her partner be prosecuted.
Do Not Talk To Her Partner
An abusive partner will often try to gain access to their victim through friends and family. If your friend’s partner tries to communicate with you, do not respond as it could give them further ammunition to use against your friend (‘I spoke to your friend Furiosa last night and she seems upset by your behaviour as well’). The same goes for social media. They might be trying to track her down and if your Instagram updates show that she’s clearly not with you they are a step closer to working out where she is. Just go dark or keep your updates neutral.
Do Not Start Bad-Mouthing Her Partner
Your friend does not need to know that you’ve always hated her partner or that you think they’re better off apart or any of the other angry feelings you might be harbouring at the minute. Make it clear that you think the attack is unacceptable and she needs to be safe but hating on her partner may put her on the defensive and seem like you're questioning her judgement for being with such a person in the first place. You are also making it difficult for her to talk to you about any of the conflicting emotions she’s feeling. Yes this person attacked her but she probably also loved them for a while and may still does. She needs to feel safe exploring those emotions, rather than worrying that you’re going to be judgemental.
Be Really Fucking Nice To Her
If you’re far away or an online friend let her know that you’re thinking about her without putting a massive burden on her to communicate. If you are in the same town as her be prepared to just hang out, to watch 10 hours of TV in silence or to have entire conversations using only emojis. She may want to talk about what’s happened to her or she may want everyone to carry on as normal.
Some more resources:
*Names changed to protect their identities
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Follow Beulah on Twitter @TheNotoriousBMD
Picture: Li Hui
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