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Giving Advice About Domestic Violence

(45 Posts)
womenfirst Tue 04-Aug-09 15:55:19

Hi Everyone.

I wanted to share some thoughts I had after reading many threads where the OP is looking for help with a situation which could be classed as domestic abuse.

The only experience I have is being a survivor so these are just my thoughts based on this experience and what would have been helpful for me to hear. They are in no particular order.

When a woman posts on here about a domestic abuse situation, she is doing so because she feels safe here. The most important thing that you can do when giving her advice is to make sure that she continues to feel safe and supported.
She is most likely confused and scared and might have trouble realising or admitting that the situation could be very real and serious. She also may be experiencing, or have experienced, emotional abuse which could lead her to feel very low about herself.

Tell her that it is not her fault.

Tell her that the most important thing is that she (and the children) are safe and feel safe.

Advise her to always call the police whenever she feels frightened by her partners behaviour.

Encourage her and support her to seek professional help. Womens aid, Refuge, Citizens Advice, whatever is most appropriate to her situation. Help her hide her tracks by explaining how to delete her history/cookies, using a pay phone etc. You might want to offer to look into professional advice on her behalf if she feels to scared to do it herself. (If you are giving advice it is worth having a look at the websites for the above organisations so you can be really informed which will enable you to better help her.)

Encourage her to realise that it is abuse. The Womens Aid and Refuge have definitions of the different types of abuse on their websites, physical, emotional, sexual and financial. If you can post an official definition that applies to her then she might begin to to realise that what is happening to her is not normal and that it is not her fault.
If she is scared of her partner for any reason then she is probably being abused.

Do not judge her. Even if you have been in a similar situation, her experience is unique to her so what you did may not be right for her. Don't be offended or frustrated if she doesn't take your advice.

Don't try to tell her what to do. She most probably has a partner who does this and will be very sensitive to 'instructional' advice.

Try not to do anything to cause her to doubt her ability as a mother. While you may rightly be concerned for the welfare of her children in the situation you need to express this in a way which she won't perceive as a judgment on her parenting or herself. Her partner may constantly tell her she is a bad mother. Express concern in a sensitive way.

Encourage her to find someone to talk to in real life. Perhaps someone that is not in her immediate circle as she will be worried about being judged or her partner being judged. Her GP is also a good one to tell if she really doesn't want to tell family or friends.

Encourage her to look after herself. Going for a walk, having a bath etc will give her some space to come to terms with her feelings and confusion. Remind her to eat and to try to sleep.

Advice such as "leave now" while probably being sensible might not be helpful to her. She might not feel able to leave and if you express frustration or judgment about this then she might not want to post again because she is not being supported in the one place she has felt safe enough to talk about it. Instead try to be sensitive and sympathetic. Saying "I'm worried for you. This situation sounds serious and you might not be safe. Have you thought about leaving?" is much less confrontational and may encourage her to discuss reasons why she doesn't feel like she can leave.

Comments like "well if my DH ever did anything like that he would be out the door" might make her feel like a failure because she is too scared or unable for whatever reason to do the same.

Remember that she is asking for help.

As I said before, these are just things that might have been helpful for me to hear. They are no substitute for professional advice but I hope they might be of some help.

MorrisZapp Tue 04-Aug-09 16:20:35

Great advice. I never really know what people are really asking for when they post about DV as they usually take offence or back away if you suggest they should leave their partner.

It's like they want a miracle answer - how to stay with him but stop the violence.

It does get very hard indeed when they insist that it's ok to expose their kids to it though. Not sure that supporting the adult woman should be a higher priority that protecting kids who can't decide for themselves iyswim?

screamingabdab Tue 04-Aug-09 16:26:54

Thankyou, that is food for thought, and really helpful

As MorrisZapp says, it is so hard to understand at times

womenfirst Tue 04-Aug-09 17:02:35

Yes MorrisZapp you are totally right, we do want a miracle answer. That's usually because we want the abuse to stop, but we still want the relationship. Its hard to find out that that is most likely not going to happen and we usually need to discover it for ourselves unfortunately.

"It does get very hard indeed when they insist that it's ok to expose their kids to it though. Not sure that supporting the adult woman should be a higher priority that protecting kids who can't decide for themselves iyswim?"

It is very hard when kids are exposed to it, although I think deep down most women do not think this is "ok". But for everyone on MN the only way that we can protect the kids is by supporting the woman.

MorrisZapp Tue 04-Aug-09 17:17:38

How is it protecting the kids to support a woman in choosing to stay with a violent partner?

Actions speak louder then word and thought. Knowing deep down that it's not ok isn't the same as taking active steps to ensure that your kids are protected. Meanwhile the kids don't have a choice what they see, hear or are exposed to.

I'm asking in the spirit of wanting to help, not in wanting to scare away people who need help.

The problem as I see it is that usually on MN, people who ask for help with DV issues get very good, practical advice and all sorts of links and phone numbers etc.

It only becomes an issue when the same poster comes back and asks time and time again for help without taking any steps herself or making use of the practical help on offer.

Nobody on MN can force anybody else to do anything at all and nor should they try, but when kids are involved - and this is a parenting site - eventually some posters will feel that the child protection issue starts to override the 'but I love him' issue or the 'I don't want to be alone' issue, which most people do have empathy with.

It's so hard to try to remain supportive when you can see somebody actively choosing an unsafe environment for themselves or their kids. I know it's not that simple, maybe you need to have been there yourself to fully undertstand all the issues.

womenfirst Tue 04-Aug-09 17:43:29

You're totally right MorrisZapp, what I am talking about is in terms of Mumsnet and what posters are actually able to do to help.

That is, helping them understand that this is abuse, that there are organisations that can help them, and encouraging them to get this help in a sensitive and supportive way.

It is very difficult to give advice in this situation- that's why people are professionally trained to do it- and it is very upsetting especially when kids are involved.

I think it is absolutely fair enough to say "I am really worried for your kids, at the very least this will be having a damaging effect on them. I really urge you to get professional help because I can't advise you further"
and then either
"but I will be here if you need to talk"
"and I find what you are writing about very distressing and I don't think I can continue to support you but I'm sure other posters will." and then leave the chat.

It is really difficult to be supportive and sympathetic about this issue but I think what I am trying to say is that posters need to be careful that their own frustration and distress doesn't scare off someone who has come here for help and therefore might not try to get help again.

womenfirst Tue 04-Aug-09 17:48:17

Also want to add that this is only my opinion. People come here looking for advice and it certainly isn't my place to tell people what advice to give, I just thought it might be helpful for people who weren't sure what to say etc. smile

MorrisZapp Tue 04-Aug-09 17:54:18

It's fair advice. I think most people find the whole idea of DV bewildering, and assume it would never happen to them. (and that if it did, they'd leave immediately).

Seek professional help seems to be the most sensible advice to give. Some things MN just doesn't have the power to do, and lifting people out of abuse is one of them.

Mintyy Tue 04-Aug-09 18:04:13

I am very uncomfortable with the idea of anyone giving advice on domestic violence via a forum like Mumsnet tbh. I have seen too many caring mumsnetters become anguished and upset as a result of their personal involvement.

MorrisZapp Tue 04-Aug-09 18:07:46

Agree mintyy. It's beyond us to solve, and it often descends into upset on both sides.

It's easier said than done to say 'consult a professional' and then walk away.

screamingabdab Tue 04-Aug-09 18:13:17

I do normally keep away from contributing on DV threads, as I feel way out of my depth, but if a situation ever arose in RL, I think that I would be better equipped to know what NOT to say, after coming on MN.

womenfirst Tue 04-Aug-09 18:19:27

Me too Mintyy. From what I have read here it sounds like a lot of posters don't really realise that their 'relationship' problems are domestic abuse problems until it is pointed out to them by Mumsnetters. I was just trying to list positive ways that mners could respond if they felt they needed/wanted to.
Its a shame that MN doesn't seem to have a section on it, or maybe they do and I haven't noticed it?

Mintyy Tue 04-Aug-09 19:17:16

Mumsnet doesn't have a section on domestic violence because this a forum geared towards parents, parenting, babies, children, teenagers. Not paarticularly adult relationships, violent or otherwise. Somehow, it seems to have become the place to drop in and post about abusive relationships (many of these threads are from first time posters) and I'm not quite sure how that has happened. There have to be better places to go online if you need sound practical advice on domestic violence?

fabnewlife Tue 04-Aug-09 20:55:39

Many 'first time' posters are name changers for obvious reasons, many people are cyberstalked, others do not want to 'out' themselves as regulars. There may be other forums for domestic violence but there are also many posters on MN who are in the same situation or have been through it.

chickybabe Tue 04-Aug-09 23:02:42

I am totally new here - but have just read yor post and cried - AMAZING - you have hit the nail on every head. well done you!! xx

chickybabe Tue 04-Aug-09 23:13:40

I really dont want to offend anyone here - but must comment on mintyy's comment there. I have been tyring to find an online place where i can reach out and "talk" to someone who could maybe give me impartial advice.

I have gone to "divorce" type sites, but have found blogs filled with bitter people who were not there to help, but to complain.

I came here because the is indeed a RELATIONSHIP forum and i didnt expect that to exclude certain types of relationships. All i can say is that your comment has made feel like an unwelcme intruder - and thats not why i came here

maggievirgo Tue 04-Aug-09 23:23:50

Mintyy, where precisely??

There are plenty of people here who have given sound and practical advice on the subject of DV. I know the shape and size of that problem, and I'm not alone here.

What tends to do the damage imo, is if somebody without the personal experience or the sensitivity or the empathy pipes in with some totally worthless comment to make the OP doubt herself and her interpretation of events... eg, making her feel foolish for posing on MN.

If it bores you, don't read it. I never read 3/4s of the boards here, but I presume that they are helping somebody else, or have value to other posters.

Mamazon Tue 04-Aug-09 23:44:06

Mintyy i have posted on literally hundreds of Dv type threads.

I escaped a severely violant x, severe enough that my very experienced family lawyer described mine as "the worst case i (he) have ever worked on"

I am happy to post on each and evrery thread where someone comes on asking for help, advice or merely an understanding shoulder to cry on. Im happy to tell her that she's not the first and unfortunatly she is unlikely to be the last to fall for a violant man.

I am happy for the occasional thread to turn out to be a troll.

Why? because even though the OP on that thread may be a troll, there will be a lurker on there that the advice given relates to.
she may not post, she may never mention it to anyone, but what she reads may just help her make the decision to make a change in her life.

I am happy to post for weeks at a time helping someone build the courage to leave.

The problem with people like you MIntyy is that as you have not been through it you are of the nieve opinion that its a simple black and white transition. you love someone enough to have their child but becvause they hit you you just leave.
What you fail to realise is that by the time she has built the courage to post about it she has been abused hundreds of times. by the time he has hit her he has spents months/years slowly chipping away at her until she has such little confident in herself and her ability to make any decisions that she doesn;t fel able to make such a life altering decision.

removing a child from its father is not an easy decision to make.

perople who come on and post "if someone hit me i'd be gone straight away" are the most infuriatingly ignorant people. im sure they mean well but its the very least helpfull thing you can possibly say.

I agree wholeheartedly with everything in your list OP

Granny23 Wed 05-Aug-09 00:31:53

Womenfirst - an excellent post - it should be compulsory reading for anyone about to respond to a poster re domestic abuse.

Morris Zapp - I think most of us women want to do everthing possible to help another woman in distress. Just as as parents we want to reach out to all children in danger. We would love to wave a magic wand and make it all better. However, DA is an insidious offence where the adnormal (to an outsider) has become the 'norm' for the abused person. You say 'somebody actively choosing an unsafe environment for themselves or their kids' but if the alternative they have is 'leave me and I will track you down and kill you and the kids' then logically, staying put is the safer choice IYSWIM. Every time we read of 1 man who has killed his family it gives credence to the threats that thousands of abusive men make.

I worked with WA for over 18 years and we drew strength from regular support sessions for ourselves - without this we could not have continued to offer support to women through the most harrowing and life threatening of circumstances. Everyone had this terrible dread of being the last person to speak to someone who then took her own life. Not trying to be deliberatly shocking here but the support/counselling of people suffering abuse is not something to be undertaken lightly either in RL or on a forum such as this. Which is why I welcome the OP and hope it is read extensively and heeded.

Granny23 Wed 05-Aug-09 08:42:23

Bumping this for the non late nighters.

My post: adnormal = abnormal

CyradisTheSeer Wed 05-Aug-09 09:33:54

Message withdrawn

hadachangeofname Wed 05-Aug-09 10:14:02

Great OP and Granny23. I think one thing that struck me was regarding suicide. Sometimes that can feel like the only way out, but it's important to emphasise that there is always another way.
And give "stories" of hope, i.e. people who have come through it.

lilypuss Wed 05-Aug-09 10:54:47


I wish I did not have to think about these things either.

I know that this is a parenting site and I'm sorry that you feel that this section is full with stuff that you think is not relevant to patenting.

All I can say is that for me it is about my children/family.

From someone who is still at the confused and anxious stage I can only say how I see it from my perspective.
I would come on here and read posts about DV - I found myself drawn to them possibly because I could sometimes see similarities between my own situation and others.
It took me a long time to realise that unfortunately there really were similarities.
It's been a long hard slog to get to where I am now (and I really don't know where I will end up yet).
Others IRL would never ever imagine what our home life has been like.
Friends and collegues would see me as a strong, opinionated woman who is well able to defend herself.
You really never can know what it's like until you are in the situation.

Mamazon Wed 05-Aug-09 11:21:16

Cyradis - that was a snidey comment made about a previous thread.
Your obviously someone that has namechanged recently but i don't pay enough attention to work out who.

IN the case you are commenting on then yes, that child/ren WERE in danger and i do believe that contacting an oputside professional agency was indeed the correct thing to do.

having been in an extremely violant relationship and being a social worker i am able to see it from both sides.

I can tell you that SS will not take someone from th einternet seriously unless they have a lot fo detail and can provide a certain amount of evidence that the events are real.
I can also tell you that for SS to just turn up they themselves are very very concerned about the welfare of the children involved. In most cases, even in direct abuse of the children, they write and make an appointment. for them to just turn up is extremely rare and goes to show just how serious the situation was.

please don't confuse a general issue with one specific case. especially seeing as you are clearly coming from one very specific standpoint

mrspnut Wed 05-Aug-09 11:43:01

Well said OP and others.

I feel the same as mamazon, I am quite willing to provide advice and support for people where I can and if they turn out not to be genuine then all I have lost is my time and some words on a screen. If I've helped someone else along the way then that is a bonus.

I do work for Women's Aid currently which is why I often steer posters towards contacting them because I know that we can be impartial, supportive and the local branch will know what there is available in the local area. I also know that in order to do the job I do, I have regular supervision, team support sessions and professional networks because by it's very nature the work is emotionally and physically draining.

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