English Mental Health

How to support someone who is in an abusive situation

Step 1: Listen

Make yourself available to listen to survivors and victims who want to confide in you. Don’t worry about knowing the right thing to say, or the right questions to ask. Listening is about creating a space for someone to share as much as they want to, without pressure or judgment. If your friend asks for your advice and you are unsure, you can say to them “I don’t know but we can find out together/I can try to find out.”

Be sure to acknowledge the bravery and courage it takes to speak about something this difficult.

Deep listening is the kind of listening that can help relieve the suffering of another person. You can call it compassionate listening. You listen with only one purpose: to help him or her to empty his heart… Because you know that listening like that, you give that person a chance to suffer less. If you want to help [them] to correct [their] perception, you wait for another time…You just listen with compassion and help [them] to suffer less. One hour like that can bring transformation and healing.

Thich Nhat Hanh

Step 2: Believe Them

According to People Opposing Woman Abuse, only 1 in 9 survivors of GBV come forward and report their cases to the police. A big reason for this is that survivors often feel that they will not be believed.

You can help by just believing the survivor when they tell you their story.

If you can and want to do more, check out Rape Crisis’s campaign for victim-centered justice processes, including dedicated sexual offences courts, that respect the survivors’ stories.

Step 3: Offer small, practical acts of kindness

As overwhelming as GBV can be, there are practical ways in which you can help survivors and victims and their families.

  • Share important information on where survivors can seek support.
  • Contact any of the organisations mentioned above here to see if they could use volunteers.
  • Donate to or volunteer with the Angel Network to put together care packs for survivors of sexual assault.
  • If you make packs, you can donate them to your local Thuthuzela Care Centre. A Thuthuzela Care Centre is a one-stop centre where survivors can give their statement, undergo a forensic exam and receive crisis counselling all in one place. See a list of these at

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