Recognizing Abuse and Starting a Conversation with a Victim.

A person experiencing domestic violence will often be afraid to openly share their circumstances for fear of retaliation from their abuser. If you suspect someone you know may be experiencing domestic violence, start by watching out for these key indicators, then see how to start a conversation.

This person may:

  • Seem scared or anxious to please their partner
  • Be overly agreeable to everything their partner says and does
  • Check in often with their partner to report on their activities
  • Frequently receive harassing phone calls from their partner
  • Talk about their partner's temper, jealousy or possessiveness

This person may:

  • Have limited access to money or credit cards
  • Have their spending tightly monitored
  • Worry excessively how their partner will respond to what are typically considered simple, everyday purchases

This person may:

  • Frequently miss work, school and social obligations without notice or explanation
  • Make seemingly odd clothing choices in an effort to conceal bruises or scars, for example: wearing long sleeves or turtlenecks in the summer and sunglasses indoors

This person may:

  • Have low self-esteem, even if they were once very confident
  • Show significant changes in personality, such as an extroverted person becoming withdrawn
  • Show signs of depression, anxiety or being suicidal

How to talk to someone experiencing abuse

As a friend, family member or co-worker of someone in an abusive relationship, it's easy to feel powerless. But you can do your part by starting a conversation, offering support and suggesting ways to get help. Here are some tips to get the discussion going.

Offer your support.

Let them know this is a judgment-free conversation and that they're not alone.

  • "I know this is difficult to discuss, but please know you can talk to me about anything."
  • "You are not alone. I care about you, and I'm here for you, no matter what."
  • "You are not responsible for what's going on."
  • "No matter what you did, you do not deserve this."

Express your concern for their safety.

Don't be afraid to let them know you're worried. It's important to help them recognize the abuse while acknowledging the difficulty of their situation.

  • "I see what's going on and I want to help."
  • "You don't deserve to be treated that way. Good partners don't say or do those kinds of things."
  • "I'm worried about your safety and am afraid you'll get really hurt next time."
  • "Please know that if you need to talk, you can always come to me."

Avoid confrontation.

If they're not ready to talk about it, don't force it. Recognize the right time.

  • "I'm here to help and am always available, even if you don't want to talk about it now."
  • "Remember, you're not alone — I am here for you when you're ready."

Let them make their own decisions.

Any judgment about their ability to make decisions may deter them from confiding in you in the future. Encouragement is key.

  • "I want to help. What can I do to support you?"
  • "How can I help protect your safety?"

Provide ways to get help.

Help them look into available resources, like the National Domestic Violence Hotline (800-799-SAFE) or a local domestic violence agency.

  • "Here is the number to our local domestic violence agency. They can help provide shelter, counseling or support groups."
  • "Let's develop a safety plan."
  • "If you need to go to the police, court or a lawyer, I can go with you to offer support."

Hear first-hand survivor stories.

When freedom seemed out of reach, these survivors kept going — and powerful stories came from their profound experiences.

See more survivor stories

Do you need immediate assistance?

Purple Purse does not provide direct help or financial resources to those experiencing domestic violence. This site is not a hotline and is not staffed 24/7. If you are in danger, please call 911. If you are in need of immediate response or local referrals, call a local hotline or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or TTY 1-800-787-3224.