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Abuse: getting help

If you or someone you know has been abused or hurt, it can be very hard to talk about it and it can also be hard to know how to get out of the situation or ask for help. 

Here is some advice on getting help if you or a friend are being abused, including who to talk to, getting away and safety planning. Abuse can take many different forms – read more about the types of abuse.

Getting help for yourself

Talk to someone

If someone has abused you it can be very difficult to talk about it. You might feel worried about what will happen to you if you speak out. Sometimes people who have been abused can fear that they won't be believed if they tell someone.

However, it is very important not to let this fear stop you from getting help. You could tell a trusted adult, teacher, youth worker or other family member about what's going on so they can help make sure you're safe.

You might find it easier to talk to someone who is there to help, but who you do not know, about what's going on. There are many organisations that can offer support, and who are there to help. 

Getting away and safety planning

It can be really hard to get away from the person who is abusing you. Abuse is never justified and never a way to express love, care or affection. It's important to get support to make sure that you are OK and so that the abuse does not continue.

But it can be very difficult to imagine how you will get away from the person who is abusing you. Safety planning can be the very first step you take. It is a way of protecting yourself and your family from someone who is hurting you. You cannot stop a person from abusing you, only they can do that, but there are things you can do to help you stay safer. It can also help you feel more in control of the situation you’re in.

Below are some tips on how to put things in place to reduce the risk of violence and abuse.

  • Think in advance about how you might react when the person who hurts you becomes abusive
  • Memorise important phone numbers such as your best friend or your mum’s mobile number, and/or a helpline number
  • Always keep your phone charged and try and have enough credit so you can always make a phone call
  • Call 999 in an emergency
  • Try to avoid posting information about your location on social networking sites by keeping your profile private
  • Turn off any GPS or location devices on your mobile phone or device
  • Be prepared to leave, if possible, wherever you are if someone becomes abusive
  • Have a code word to share with people you trust if someone is hurting you. For example, the word might be ‘tomato’ and if you text that to your trusted person, they will know you need help
  • Make sure you always have enough money on you so that you can get home or away from the person who hurts you
  • Try and find out about local services in your area that you can go to for help and advice
  • Keep an emergency bag packed with essentials in it, such as ID, some money, spare keys, medication if you need it, clothes and toiletries. Store it with someone, or somewhere that the person who hurts you cannot find, such as in a school locker, at your friends or neighbour’s house
  • If you think someone is about to hurt you, try and avoid being in areas that are not easy to escape from, such as small rooms with locks on (such as the bathroom) and try to avoid rooms where there are likely to be things that can be used as weapons such as kitchens and garages
  • Always tell someone you trust or the police, if you have been hurt in any way

There are lots of organisations that can provide advice and support. See below.

Helping a friend

If you think a friend or someone you know is being abused, start by talking to them about it when it is safe to do so. It is a good idea to wait until you are alone with them or in a place where you will not be overheard by the abuser. If your friend has come to you to talk about it, listen to them and be supportive, and remind them how strong they are in confiding in you, because it takes a lot of courage to talk about abuse and violence.

Make it clear you’re there for them, share the advice on these pages and encourage them to talk to someone they trust about it, such as a family member, a friend, a teacher or the police.

Don’t be upset if they don’t want to talk to you. It can be very difficult to discuss and if they’re angry or negative, chances are they are just scared.

Just by raising your concerns with the person could be the first step in them being able to see what their situation is really like. It’s important to make sure the person you are worried about knows you will always be there for them. It may be days, weeks or even years before they feel able to get the support they need but often it is friends who give people the strength they need to get the help they need.

You can talk to a trusted adult about your concerns too. They can help you to support the person you are worried about and help you to deal with the situation.

Never confront the person who you think is being abusive as this could put you and them in danger.

Even if the person you are worried about says that they do not want or need any help, it is important that you still talk to a trusted adult about your concerns. They may say that they won’t talk to you or be your friend anymore if you tell someone what is happening, but your friend's safety has to be your priority. You are not going behind their back, telling on them or interfering. If you have a real concern, you are being a good friend.

Page last reviewed: February 2016
Next review due: February 2017