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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. You can read about the different forms abuse can take here.

Getting help for yourself

Talk to someone

If someone has abused or is abusing 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.

It can be hard to ask for help about something that happened in the past, but you can ask for support whenever and go at your own pace no matter how long ago it was.

If anyone hurts you or acts abusively towards you, tell someone you trust, and/or report it to the police.

You might find it easier to talk to someone who you do not know. There are many organisations that can offer support, such as these dedicated helplines for domestic abuse support, or if you are a young person or are worried about a young person you can visit the Childline website or call them on 0800 1111.

Getting away and safety planning

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.

It can be very difficult to imagine getting 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.

Next steps to reduce the risk of violence and abuse

Reduce the risk of immediate danger
  • If it is an emergency call 999.
  • If you think someone is about to hurt you, try to avoid being in areas that are not easy to escape from, such as small rooms with locks on the doors (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.
Be prepared
  • Money: Make sure you always have enough money on you so that you can get home or away from the person who hurts you.
  • Emergency bag: Keep an emergency bag packed with essentials in it, such as ID, some money, spare keys, medication if you need it, clothes and toiletries. Keep it somewhere that the person who hurts you cannot find, such as in a school locker or at the house of someone you trust.
  • Phone: Always keep your phone charged and try to keep the credit topped up so you can always make a phone call.
  • Phone numbers: Memorise important phone numbers such as your parent’s or best friend’s mobile number, and/or a helpline number.
  • Code word: Have a code word to share with people you trust that you can use 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.
  • Location sharing: 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.
Find out where to get support

Find out organisations that can support you in your local area or contact national helplines that can support you with escaping the abuse

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 in person, so you are not overheard by the abuser. Try to avoid messaging them as their abuser may be checking their phone.

Listen to them and be supportive if your friend has come to you, 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 seem angry or closed-off, the chances are they are just scared.

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 seek support they need but often it is friends who give people the strength they need to get the help they need.

Be non-judgemental. There are lots of reasons why someone might not want to leave an abusive relationship, including fear.

Talk to a trusted adult about your concerns, even if the person you are worried about says they don’t want or need any help. They can help you to support the person you are worried about and help you to deal with the situation. When you do this, it is possible that your friend will say that they won’t talk to you or be your friend anymore. You should still do it: their 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.

Don’t confront the abuser

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

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