7 ways to support women when they feel unsafe at home
Updated: Sep 28
We all know that we need to feel safe, to feel ok and be free to go about our day to day lives.
However, it can be overlooked that safety is not just a Need – it is a right.
We all have a right to feel safe, in our home and in our community.
During times of restrictions with Covid-19, there are times we are being asked to stay home and stay safe.
The trouble with this is, that home is not always a safe place for everyone.
Thankfully the catch-cry of STAY HOME and STAY SAFE is followed by STAY CONNECTED.
If the saying “Out of sight, out of mind is true” in the context of normal life free from restrictions, then how much more hidden are underlying mental health issues and dysfunction issues while we go through extended periods of social isolation?
One of the things we are asked to do to help us work through this period of isolation is to stay connected to the ones we love.
The current Health Pandemic is seeing a rise in women seeking help because of abuse and violence in their home. This is a vital time for us to stay connected with loved ones whose safety may be at risk in their home environment.
If you know someone who feels unsafe at home, here are some ways you can help.
1) Check in on them regularly
If someone you love is feeling unsafe it is more important now than ever before, to establish a line of communication where you can check in on them regularly.
It is important to find a mode of communication that is safest for them. Let them lead you as to the best mode of communication and the frequency of communication to help them feel safe and stay safe. They know better than anyone what triggers they are dealing with in their home environment.
The key is to listen to them, be an ear. Show you hear them and that you are there for them in whatever way they need you to be a support. For them, just knowing that someone cares about them and is looking out for them and is willing to support them, can make all the difference in the world.
2) Never Blame Them for What is Making Them Feel Unsafe
Victim-Blaming is a strange Psychological phenomenon which is multi-faceted and can be a very hurtful thing for anyone who feels victimized.
People, who are already experiencing feelings of powerlessness within their own home because of their situation need to feel supported, not judged.
Saying things like “You chose this relationship” will only serve to make the person you care about experience counter-productive feelings like Shame, Self-Blame and Regret. None of these feelings will make them feel any better, or help them feel any stronger, or more able to overcome the issues they are facing.
Take Blame out of the conversation and focus on exploring questions about how they are, how they are coping and if there is anything you can do to make them feel supported.
3) Don’t Make Excuses for the Person Who Is Making Them Feel Unsafe
Abuse in all its forms is not ok. Making excuses for the person who is making your loved one feel unsafe will not make their issue any better, or make it go away.
What it will do is make your loved one feel as though you don’t understand what they are dealing with. Not only will it potentially make them question that this is somehow their fault, but it could shut down your line of communication.
If they start to feel as though you don’t understand the gravity of what is happening to them, or they feel you are being empathetic towards the person who is making them feel unsafe, or perhaps even thoughts that you appear to be supporting that person’s behavior, then the strength of the relationship you have with your loved one who is feeling unsafe will be compromised.
They may withdraw from you because they feel misunderstood, compromised and alone.
4) Support Them When They Need To Talk
Be a great listener.
Ask them caring questions at the appropriate times, like “Are you ok?”, How are things at home?”, “Is there anything you would like me to do?”
You don’t have to be an expert in Family Violence, or Relationships to be one of the strongest supports your loved one could ever hope to have.
The biggest encouragement is them knowing there is someone out there who loves them and is looking out for them.
You don’t have to have all the answers to solve the issues, so don’t feel as though you are failing them when you can’t wave a magic wand and make everything better for them.
The relief they may experience from feeling supported may be a source of renewed strength they need to help them feel more empowered to address their critical needs. This is so important.
5) Be a Part of Their Safety Plan even if you don’t think it’s needed
Now that we all have some experience with Safety Planning because of all the health and hygiene protocols we are required to follow to stay healthy and help others stay healthy too, we have a good understanding of what a Safety Plan looks like.
People who are at risk because they may not be safe in their home environment need to have a Safety Plan too. This plan will look different for everyone, depending on their situation, their issues, the level of risks and their environment.
Support Services have lots of links to Safety Plan examples to help get an idea of what this might look like. Make a friend of Google and ask questions which you feel might give you some links which might help improve the situation for the person suffering. Doing some of your own research from a safe place might be a very good method to help find the right level of support for your loved one. You can then look at ways of relating this information to them at the appropriate times.
When you have information you wish to share with them, you can let them know you have information which may help them and ask them to let you know how and when they would like you to share this information with them.
A good place to start is making you a Safety Contact and maybe having an alert sign worked out that they can send you via text or some other mode of communication in the event that things escalate and they need immediate help, but are unable to raise alarms themselves. A simple hand signal on a facetime call can be a very effective way of raising an alarm.
As difficult as it is to make Safety Plans they are a very helpful reference when the anxious mind can become too confused to know what course of action to take.
A great question to ask is “What do you need, to help you feel safe?”
Identifying needs is a great start to a path of self-empowerment for the person who is affected.
6) Help in Practical Ways
You may not have the power to make their issues magically disappear but there may be ways in which you can still help in practical ways.
Maybe lead with a question like “Is there anything you need right now?” The answer to this question could be any number of things which could make a real difference to helping them meet a need which would otherwise be left unmet.
It might be as simple as sending them a message once a day to check in on them and see if they are ok.
It might be dropping in some groceries or other essential items if they are not able to get out themselves.
Let them know they are not being any trouble to you to ask for help, in fact in asking you to help them, it is empowering to you too. If they can understand that if you are not making yourself available to help be a part of the solution, it makes you feel helpless. And in asking for help or support it does not make them a failure, just part of the human race.
7) Call Emergency Services if They Are In Immediate Danger
It seems unimaginable that there would be a need for this type of intervention, but there are times where this course of action is what is needed.
If the risks to someone’s safety are serious, it is always better to err on the side of caution. If there is an immediate danger do not hesitate to contact Emergency Services.
If the person affected has a Court Order in place where the abuser is contravening any acts of Family Violence, it is helpful to make reference to this when you speak with Emergency Services. Providing the name of the other party can also be helpful.
Don’t worry about the details; Emergency Services are trained to ask the right questions to get the answers they need to assess appropriate responses.
Hope this information helps you to receive the support you need if you are not feeling safe. Please share this with your loved ones if you feel it will help you communicate your needs.
And for the friends and family who read this, hope that this helps give you some ideas to support your loved one.
Please share ideas which may help support those who are feeling unsafe at home and build stronger connections to end the cycle of violence.
The author of this BLOG is a survivor of an abusive relationship and is committed to use her voice to speak up and speak out about violence and abuse against women.
Sandy J supports women like her through her Podcast Tiaras Tears and Triumphs. To listen to the Podcast click the link below.
For your FREE GUIDE to gain confidence and courage to deal with the tough stuff click the link below.
Sandy J works with women like her as a Life Change Facilitator, to help them heal and grow and gain the confidence and the courage to regain control over their lives. To book a free 30 minute call with Sandy click the link below.
If you would like to contact Sandy or find out more about her, click the link below.
1800RESPECT is an Australian is a Sexual Assault, Domestic/Family Violence/Abuse 24 hour a day Counselling Support Service and is a great resource for information and support.
Click below to visit their site.