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Help a friend

It can be hard to know what to do if your friend is going out with someone who doesn’t treat them well.

But it’s important to check in with your friends, especially if they might be in trouble.

If you’re worried about someone close to you, you can chat to us on our instant messaging support service, or call the Women’s Aid 24hr National Freephone Helpline.

1800 341 900

I’m worried about how my friend’s partner treats them. How will I know if they are experiencing abuse?

Abuse can feel like a big word. But the subtle ways a person mistreats their partner can start out small and get much worse over time.

Watching out for red flags for abuse – in your friend or their partner – can help you see if something is off:

  • The person they’re seeing bombards your friend with messages
  • Your friend is a lot more distant and you don’t see them much
  • When you do see your friend, they seem quieter, tense, and distracted
  • Their partner is horrible to them, especially when they’re drunk
  • Your friend seems afraid to talk to or hang out with certain people
  • Their partner gets really jealous if someone chats to them
  • Their partner flips out over little things
  • Their partner looks through their phone and knows their passwords

You don’t need to be 100% sure that they are experiencing abuse. Even if you don’t recognise any of these signs. If it feels wrong, it probably is.

I think my friend might be in trouble.
How can I bring it up with them?

Text them to say hi.

Ask them if they’re ok and if they would like to hang out.

They might feel very isolated so remind them that you are there for them.

Avoid talking to them about your concerns over text. It could put them in danger if their partner looks through their phone. Talking to them in person is safer and can help them feel supported.

Ask them about how they’re feeling about their relationship. You can say things like:

  • How have things been with you two lately?
  • What is an argument between you two usually like?
  • How do they treat you when they’re upset?
  • What’s keeping you in the relationship?

If you don’t think you are close enough with them to bring it up, you can speak, in confidence, to someone they trust like another friend, sister, or family member.

If they open up to you and it sounds like a red flag for abuse, it can be helpful to name unhealthy and healthy behaviours.

For example:

  • They say: “Mike goes mental if he sees another lad talking to me. He always says I flirt back.”
  • You can say: “That’s not ok. Mike should trust you. In a healthy relationship your partner trusts you. If Mike gets jealous easily and accuses you of flirting and cheating all the time that’s really unhealthy.”

It might be difficult for them to hear what you are saying. They might become defensive. Encourage them to trust their gut and give them time to sit with what you have spoken about.

Do not offer to talk to their partner or let yourself be seen by their partner as a threat to their relationship, this could put your friend in danger.

Show them you are there for them

You don’t need to be an expert to be there for them, you just need to listen.

  • Give them time to talk, and don’t push them to go into too much detail if they don’t want to share.
  • Be patient with them, it could be very difficult for them to talk about.
  • Acknowledge that it takes strength to talk about what they are going through.

Telling them you believe them is the most important thing you can do. You can say things like:

  • “I believe you, it’s not your fault”
  • “What your partner is doing is not ok”
  • “You don’t deserve to be manipulated, threatened, or criticised all the time.”
  • “Nothing your partner does or says can justify their behaviour.”
  • “I understand that you are in a frightening and very difficult situation.”

  • Don’t tell them to leave the relationship if they are not ready to do this. This is their decision.
  • Encourage them to express their feelings, whatever they are.
  • Allow them to make their own decisions.

Let them create their own boundaries of what they think is safe and what is not safe. Don’t urge them to do anything they are not comfortable with.

  • Tell them about supports available at
  • Add the Women’s Aid 24hr National Freephone Helpline number 1800 341 900 to your list of contacts in case they ever need it.
  • Give them phone credit so they can make calls in an emergency.
  • Tell them they can contact you if they need to talk to someone.
  • Agree a code word they can use if they’re in danger and need help.
  • Give them some cash to put away in case they need a taxi or bus in an emergency. Or add your card to their taxi app so they can book one in an emergency.
  • If their partner has hurt them physically, they might need medical attention. Offer to go with them to a hospital or to see their GP. It is useful in the future to have records of any injuries as abuse often gets much worse over time.
  • Help them to report the abuse to the police if they choose to do so.
  • Tell them about the legal protections available to them.