Information for friends, family and colleagues

Click on the links below to find out more about violence against women and what you can do to help a friend, family member or colleague.

Everyone has the right to live without fear of violence and abuse. If you know or suspect that a family member, friend or work colleague is experiencing some kind of abuse, you can do a lot to help. There are things you can say and do which can make a great difference.

If you think that someone is in immediate danger, phone the police on 999.

Possible signs of abuse

There is no easy way to spot whether a person is experiencing domestic or sexual abuse. Often there is no physical abuse or injuries are hidden. Those experiencing abuse often feel to blame or ashamed and lose confidence and self-esteem. There may be health problems such as depression and anxiety. People may try to cope in lots of different ways, for example by self-harming or using alcohol and drugs.

Some other signs are:

  • Absence from work, school or social events
  • Talking about being scared of their partner or about their partner being angry
  • Personality changes (for example, someone who is outgoing becoming withdrawn)
  • Repeated unexplained injuries

People often have a hunch, or a feeling, that something is not right, but might feel they 'don't know'. Don’t ignore this. Given that so many women are affected by abuse, it is worth considering this as a possibility. There may be things you can do to help.

Find out more about different forms of violence against women


What you can do

Friends, families and colleagues may not want to get involved or may not know what to do. They may think it is not their business. But violence and abuse are everyone’s business. Stopping the abuse is not your responsibility. It is the responsibility of the person who is doing the abusing. But there are things you can do to help your friend or family member.

  • Tell them that you are concerned. Say why you are worried and ask if they want to talk to you about it. Let her know you want to help and are there to listen. You don't have to know all the answers. The important thing is to let her know that she is not alone.
  • Always make sure safety comes first - yours and theirs. The abuser won't appreciate you getting involved so be careful about what you do and where and when you do it. Be careful not to intervene personally. Phone the police if she or any children are in immediate danger.
  • Support your friend in whatever decision she makes about her situation, whilst being clear that the abuse is wrong. Remember, what you are trying to do is be supportive, not making her feel judged. It is not always easy for women to just leave an abusive situation. In fact, it might be safer for her to stay if she is being abused by a partner.
  • Stay in contact with her and help her to explore what choices are on offer. Try to focus on her safety rather than the abusive person/people. Let her guide you in how best to support her.
  • Reassure her that abuse is not her fault and that you are there for her. Remind her of her strengths, challenge her if she puts herself down or blames herself, praise her for every step she takes and let her know she has your support.
  • If you raise the issue, she may deny or make out it’s ‘not that bad’. This is something that women often say to cope with what is happening. You can let her know that at any time if she wants to speak that you will listen.
  • It takes a lot of courage for someone to speak about abuse, if she has told you she is being abused, let her know that you believe her.
  • Don't give up on her, you might be her only lifeline!


Practical tips

  • Agree a code word or action that if she says to you or you see, you know she's in danger and needs help
  • Find out about violence against women and how it affects people. Start by visiting the websites of and
  • Find out about local services
  • Encourage her get help from a service where people understand what she is going through and can offer specialist support and advice
  • If you are concerned about a colleague, speak to your personnel department and find out if you have a workplace policy to support employees who are experiencing abuse. Knowing what help is available at work can help her to keep safe. You can do this without giving names – your colleague may not be ready for other people to know yet and it may not be safe.

Download: Supporting a friend, relative of colleague who is experiencing domestic or sexual abuse


Support for you

It can be hard supporting someone who is affected by violence and abuse. You may find it helpful to speak to someone who specialises in this work. Click here for details of local and national services.


Protecting children and adults

Follow the links before to find out how you can help to protect children and adults.

Adult support and protection

Child protection


Adult support and protection

There are many individuals who need support to protect themselves from harm. This may be difficult if they are affected by a disability, infirmity or an illness. As a result, they may be at risk of physical, sexual, financial or emotional harm or neglect from those who provide services for them, members of the community, or even their own family members. Those experiencing forms of violence against women, such as domestic abuse or sexual violence, might be at particular risk or need additional support.

Click here to see more about Dundee’s adult protection services.


Child protection

Knowing when a child or young person may be at risk of significant harm is not always easy to spot. The signs below might alert you that something's wrong.

If there is domestic abuse in a family, children are likely to be affected by it, directly or indirectly.The best way to support children in such situations is to support the mother.

Other forms of violence against women may also affect children directly or indirectly and it is up to everyone in the community to help.

People often have a hunch, or a feeling, that something is not right, but might feel they 'don't know'. Hunches and feelings shouldn't be ignored. A child or young person might be relying on you to do something about that hunch. If you don't, they could continue to be harmed.

Many children and young people may be too frightened or unable to say if they feel unsafe. They may not know who to tell. Or they might not realise that what is being done to them is abusive or neglectful - they might think that this is the way every child is treated.

A child or young person rarely says if they are being harmed. However, there may be one or more of the following signs that make you concerned about a child or young person.

If the child or young person:

  • Has unexplained bruising or bruising in an unusual place
  • Appears afraid, quiet or withdrawn
  • Seems afraid to go home
  • Appears constantly hungry, tired or untidy
  • Is left unattended or unsupervised
  • Has too much responsibility for their age
  • Is acting in a sexually inappropriate way
  • Is misusing drugs or alcohol
  • Tells you something that sounds as though they have been hurt by someone

There may be other signs that give you cause for concern - trust your instincts as they're usually right.

If you see behaviour that is of concern or if a child or young person tells you something that makes you concerned, you need to take them seriously and act. Phone 01382 307999 or see the Dundee Child Care and Protection Committee Website


Follow the links before to find out about how employers can support employees affected by violence against women.

Workplace policies

Employers’ responsibilities


Workplace policies

If a colleague is affected by some form of abuse, there may be a workplace policy they can refer to for advice and guidance. Contact your HR department for more information.

If there is no such policy, this is something you could raise with your Trade Union. Employers have responsibilities both under health and safety regulations and anti-discrimination legislation.

Download: Dundee City Council work place policy on domestic abuse

Download: NHS Scotland workplace policy on gender-based violence


Employers’ responsibilities

Violence against women is a workplace issue.

Given the prevalence of violence against women, it is important that employers ensure a supportive workplace and have policies both to support employees affected by abuse and deal with employees who are perpetrating abuse. There are samples from NHS Tayside and Dundee City Council below.

Having an explicit policy enables employers to:

  • Raise awareness of gender-based violence as a serious health and social issue, highlighting its hidden nature and the impact on those affected by it
  • Send a positive message to employees with experience of abuse that they will be listened to and supported
  • Project a clear signal that the actions of employees who perpetrate abuse, within or outside the workplace, are unacceptable
  • Provide a framework for addressing the behaviour of employees who may be perpetrators of abuse and who may pose a risk to other employees or members of the public within the context of their work
  • Create a potential cost benefit by contributing to the reduction of absence related costs and increased productivity
  • Improve their reputation by formally recognising and responding to gender-based violence as a serious workplace issue

If you need information about how to go about drafting and implementing such a policy, contact DVAWP.

This is also an issue for workforce development. Find out more about training and raising awareness for your employees.

Download: Dundee City Council workplace policy on domestic abuse

Download: NHS Scotland workplace policy on gender-based violence


Perpetrators of abuse

If you are concerned about your own or someone else’s behaviour contact the Respect Phoneline for information and support on 0845 122 6409 or see

See also frequently asked questions