You may be feeling a range of different emotions about your friend going through something like this. There is no right or wrong way to feel and however you feel is ok. It can be difficult to know how to help and it’s important to let your friend guide you in what feels right for them. We’ve listed below some key points for supporting someone effectively:
• Listen and remain calm.
• Believe what they say.
• Let them know you are there for them.
• Reassure them that their feelings are normal, and that they are not to blame for what has happened.
• Be patient, open-minded and respect their decisions – they may not react how you expect and that is ok – there is no right or wrong way to respond to trauma, everyone is different and it may take time for them to feel ready to process what happened.
• Encourage them when they do want to take steps but are finding things difficult, but make sure not to put any pressure on them to make any particular decision or act more quickly.
• Give them choices – it’s useful for them to know their options for reporting to the police, to report to the University (if the perpetrator(s) are University students), and specialist support options – but it’s ok if they opt not to do any of these things or don’t want to do them right away.
Support from specialist services for your friend
Support options to let your friend know about can be found in our article ‘I think I have experienced relationship abuse’.
If your friend is a University of Bristol student, you can fill in a Wellbeing Access form on their behalf, with their permission, so that the Wellbeing team can reach out to them directly. Sometimes it’s really difficult for someone to take the first step on their own and arranging for a support service to get in touch with them proactively can be a really helpful thing to do. Please make sure that they are happy for you to fill in a form on their behalf, and indicate this on the form so the Wellbeing team can take proactive action confident that your friend is expecting to be contacted.
Further information about supporting a friend who is or has been experiencing an abusive relationship
- If your friend is a woman, Refuge has resources on ‘supporting a survivor’.
- If your friend is a man, Respect: Men’s Advice Line has resources for friends and family.
- If your friend is LGBTQ+, Galop has resources for friends and family.
Please note, much of the information in these further resources can be useful regardless of the gender or identity of your friend.
Your own wellbeing
Hearing about relationship abuse can be really upsetting, and it’s important that you make sure that you also look after yourself. If you are a University of Bristol student seeking support, our Wellbeing Access team can connect you with further support available here at the University. There may be an equivalent service of this kind at your university if you are studying elsewhere, or there are national services to support you such as the 24/7 Samaritans helpline.