This article contains references to domestic abuse and may be triggering for some readers. If you or someone you know is affected by domestic violence, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732).
When victim-survivors of domestic and family violence (DFV) are asked to reflect on how their friends and family could have best supported them when they needed it, they tend to repeat two words:
They wish they had been listened to. And believed.
They don't look back and think anyone on the outside should've intervened. That they needed a saviour to turn up at their door, 'rescue' them from their abuser and force them to leave.
They know the implicit risk that comes with leaving - that the period just before and after leaving is often the most dangerous.
Instead, they ask that we - as people who are likely to know and love someone, at some point in our lives, who experiences DFV - listen and believe.
Don't be scared to ask. Then listen without judgment, and believe what they're saying.
The abuse you can't see
The term 'domestic violence' in some ways does a disservice to the reality of intimate partner abuse. While 'violence' evokes images of bruises and broken bones, physical fights and calls to the police, the reality is far more complex.
DFV might be better described as ‘intimate terrorism,’ the experience of living under coercive control, which can manifest in a number of insidious ways.
Psychological terror, caused by actions like isolating a person from their family and friends, threatening to estrange them from their children, limiting their spending or implementing strict rules for how they must behave, is a way for abusers to restrict the freedoms of their victim without leaving marks behind. To those on the outside, these types of abuse might be invisible.