Responding to disclosures

Often, the first time a woman discusses her experience of family violence is when she is in crisis.

Few women start by approaching family violence services or police. They are more likely to reach out to:

  • friends or family
  • GPs, child specialists or maternal or child health nurses.

How you respond to a disclosure can have a big effect on how likely women are to seek help in the future. Here are some tips:

  • Listen with empathy, without interrupting and without judgement. Let her share her story, at her own pace.
  • Believe what she tells you and let her know you believe her. It can be very difficult to disclose experiences of violence. Women may fear not being believed. You can say, ‘It must be hard for you to talk about this. A lot of women are afraid no one will believe them,’ or ‘I can see it has taken courage for you to tell me this.’
  • Reassure her that the violence is unacceptable, and that it is not her fault. Let her know that no one deserves to be abused. You could say, ‘The person who chooses to be violent is the one who is responsible.’
  • Refer her to support services and other available help. Let her know that she can just get support and information. They won’t pressure her to leave the situation.

Thing to avoid:

  • Talking down: ‘Well, it’s obvious that you’re not thinking straight.’
  • Ordering: ‘You should leave him. I’ll get you into a refuge.’
  • Avoidance: ‘Maybe we can talk about this later.’
  • Logical argument: ‘It’s a fact that violence only gets worse over time.’
  • Judging: ‘You know it’s harmful to expose the children to this.’

More information on how to respond to disclosures is at DVRCV.