The World Health Organisation (WHO)’s latest report on Violence Against Women that was released in June 2013 indicated that in some regions of the world, over 35% of women suffer from partner violence. With these staggering numbers, it is a very real possibility that every one of us knows a woman is facing (or has faced) domestic violence.
The intervention of neighbours and the wider community is one of the keys to stopping the violence. This starter list provides 16 tips for preventing and intervening to stop Domestic Violence in your community and/or neighbourhood. We have divided the list into 2 sections – one for the wider community and one for individuals. If you have any other suggestions and tips, please do share them in the comments section.
Introduction by Regina Yau; Written by Rashad Brathwaite and Regina Yau; Edited by Jerica Nonell and Regina Yau.
“Stop Domestic Violence” graphic by Sebastian Smith.
For The Wider Community
Domestic Violence Intervention Tip #1: Know the signs. The first step to action is to familiarise individuals and the community with the possible signs and indicators of domestic violence. These signs can vary and do not always come with physical symptoms because domestic violence is not just limited to physical attacks such as beatings. It includes many forms of abusive behaviour enacted to control the victim in a myriad of ways including emotional abuse, verbal abuse and economic abuse. Domestic violence also affects every level and demograhic in society, so there is no typical victim despite the stereotypes. Someone who may not appear to be a victim of domestic violence may well be suffering in silence and it is important to recognise the signs if this is the case.
Domestic Violence Intervention Tip #2: Get your community educated! A good start to eradicating Domestic Violence from your community or neighbourhood is to start educating as many people as possible about Domestic Violence, its impact and how to intervene safely. This can be done in collaboration with your local Domestic Violence shelter or women’s organisation or police community outreach officers who can work with the community, local schools and local companies to organise and implement talks, townhall meetings and other group sessions to talk about this issue.
Domestic Violence Intervention Tip #3: Get your community organised! There is safety and influence in numbers when intervening to stop an abuser or making your community a place where Domestic Violence will not be tolerated. So just as many neighbourhoods have neighbourhood watch to stop crime, start organising a network of folks who will commit to intervene in Domestic Violence situations, help victims leave their abusers safely and provide a communal support structure for survivors.
Domestic Violence Intervention Tip #4: Boost your community support network with technology! If you have a smart phone and the victim has a smart phone, consider downloading a safety app for women, many of which have been designed to automatically alert your support network if you are in danger. If the victim does not have a smart phone, consider pooling money with a few friends and neighbours to get her one and pre-load it with a safety app that is connected to all your phones so you can become a de facto support net for her. Free safety apps currently available include the award-winning Circle of 6 and the iAMDEFENDER app which you can download here.
Domestic Violence Intervention Tip #5: Stopping the violence is good for business. Domestic Violence has cost economies and companies millions of dollars in lost time, medical care, productivity etc. In the U.S., the cost of Domestic Violence to the economy is estimated at $8.3 billion a year. If you are a business owner or a senior member of a company (e.g. a director, board member, senior manager), be pro-active in getting educated about how to intervene if you suspect or know that your employee or staff member is facing Domestic Violence because it will have a knock-on effect on your company. Implement HR policies that makes provisions for the potential impact of Domestic Violence. For example, the National Bank of Australia is currently offering paid Domestic Violence leave because the economic freedom from remaining in paid work is regarded as vital in helping victims escape violent relationships.
Domestic Violence Intervention Tip #6: Ring the bell. If you are the neighbour of a family experiencing Domestic Violence, please take the time to ring their bell when you hear a violent situation happening. You could use the old neighbourly approach of asking to borrow a cup of sugar or some milk as an excuse. If you feel that it could get dangerous, bring another person with you so there will be more than one witness. Check out what this guy did in a PSA by our partner, Bell Bajao:
Domestic Violence Intervention Tip #7: Bring a back-up. Intervening with Domestic Violence situations can be dangerous especially if the abuser has a weapon (e.g. a gun) and is intoxicated by drink or drugs. If you are unable to get help from the local shelter or police, make sure to bring another friend or family member along with you when you respond to the victim/survivor’s call in person.
Domestic Violence Intervention Tip #8: BE the back-up. If your neighbour, friend, co-worker, classmate, mother, sister, daughter, daughter-in-law, niece or cousin is facing Domestic Violence at home, let them know that you will be willing to be a witness or to intervene on their behalf while you are around. Also let them know that they are welcome to take refuge in your home should they need somewhere to go.
Domestic Violence Intervention Tip #9: Make the call, NOW. If the situation is beyond simple neighbourly intervention (e.g. the abuser has a gun and uses it during the abuse), call the police or your local emergency services (such as 911 in the U.S.) IMMEDIATELY. Provide critical information, such as location, names, contact number, and whether or not you wish the remain anonymous. Do NOT intervene personally in this scenario as it will be too dangerous to do so.
Domestic Violence Intervention Tip #10: Listen to empower. If a victim of domestic violence reaches out to you, listen. Let her know that you believe her and do not judge her choices. Victims often feel completely isolated and are often belittled by their partner; it is important to enable her to feel safe when confiding in you because eventually, she may well be able to gather enough courage to tell you exactly what is happening and to ask for help. This intervention tip may be particularly useful for hairdressers, nurses, human resource department personnel and anyone working in professions that involve having to listen to clients, customers and co-workers as part of the job.
Domestic Violence Intervention Tip #11: Be on standby If you suspect your friend, co-worker, staff, or family member of suffering from Domestic Violence, offer to be on standby for her text or call for emergencies. Have your phone on and fully charged at all times and keep it on you. If you have a car and need to intervene immediately, make sure that the gas/petrol tank is full so you can get in and drive to get the victim/survivor immediately if need be.
Domestic Violence Intervention Tip #12: Have an intervention plan. Work out a plan to get an intervention operation in action – have the following numbers on standby for your use:
- The national Domestic Violence helpline (if your country has it)
- The local Domestic Violence shelter helpline wherever the victim/survivor is located.
- The local police wherever the victim/survivor is located.
Make sure to contact all of these agencies immediately should you receive an urgent SOS from the victim/survivor or if you hear or witness the violence begin and escalate (and in many cases, it may escalate incredibly quickly).
Domestic Violence Intervention Tip #13: Provide some relief. If you know a Domestic Violence victim/survivor who is being kept at home without relief, do a random act of kindness for her: Offer to babysit the children for a few hours while the abuser is out so she can have a breather; Offer to pick up groceries for her on your grocery run. Every small gesture helps provide relieve and also build the victim’s confidence in eventually reaching out to you for help (or accepting your help).
Domestic Violence Intervention Tip #14: Check in regularly. If you fear for your friend, co-worker, classmate, or family member’s life, call or text her once a day at a random time to see if she is all right. If it’s your neighbour, keep an eye out on the house and your ears pricked for any signs or sounds of violence.
Domestic Violence Intervention Tip #15: Be a resource. Help her find the assistance she needs, whether it is legal information, local domestic violence programmes, or finding a safe place through a battered women’s shelter. The greatest danger women face in these situations is often the actual process of leaving, so finding a safe place may be key. Knowing this information beforehand may be helpful, but assisting her in the research and even making phone calls for her will also help speed things up.
Domestic Violence Intervention Tip #16: Document! Document! Document! Document any incidents that you witness. Take note of dates, times, injuries, and any other observations. Your ongoing documentation can help bolster a victim’s courage and credibility when they are finally willing to pursue legal action against their partner.