Communities and Justice

Responding to people who experience domestic and family violence

As a community or religious leader, you may be approached by someone experiencing domestic and family violence. This conversation guide is an example of how to safely respond to someone seeking help. Domestic and family violence is not always easy to recognize, and people may not directly tell you that they are experiencing domestic and family violence. Learn more about recognising domestic and family violence

If you are ever unsure about something, please call the NSW Domestic Violence Line on 1800 656 463 for confidential advice.

Something is considered immediate danger if:

  • It’s occurring now
  • There’s an immediate fear of it about to happen
  • It’s life threatening.

Conversation guide

Responding to domestic and family violence can be difficult. When in doubt, follow these steps:

  1. Listen with an open mind
  2. Validate their concerns
  3. Offer support options and referrals

This conversation guide shows how to use these steps in a conversation with the person seeking help.

1.     Listen with an open mind

Them: Do you have a few minutes to speak about something?

You: Yes of course. Are you alright?

Them: I’m not sure if I am alright actually. I have been having some issues with my partner.

You: I am sorry to hear that, do you feel comfortable telling me a bit more?

Them: It’s really hard to talk about. They’ve been shouting at me every time I come home from work or when I’m back from visiting my mother. My mother had a fall recently and I need to visit her house more often than usual. My partner calls me all the time when I’m there. Recently they have been hiding the car keys from me so I can’t leave the house, and yesterday they shoved me when I arrived home.

2.    Validate their concerns

You: I’m glad you have shared this with me. Please know that you’re not alone, and the way your partner is behaving is unacceptable.

Them: It’s so scary to finally share this with someone. Please promise me you won’t tell them about any of this. I am afraid of how they might react.

You: Of course, I will not share this with anyone, unless you or your children are in immediate danger. Then I am required to contact help. 

3.    Offer support options

Them:  Thank you so much. I’m not sure what to do now.

You:  To be honest, from what I’ve heard I’m concerned. I think that we should seek professional advice, but only if you feel comfortable. There is a service called the New South Wales Domestic Violence Line and they can help us figure out what to do. We can call them anytime.

Them: Oh, I am not sure about that yet, can I think about it?

You: Of course. If you decide you want advice from a professional, we can make the call together. Is there anything else you want to talk about?

Them: I think I am okay for now. It is nice to be listened to.

You: Do you feel safe to go home now ?

Them: I do, but I’ll let you know if I don’t anymore.

You: You can speak to me anytime. 

It is normal to experience distress when you hear about domestic and family violence. If you need support with your own wellbeing and want to talk to a professional, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

You can also download these guidelines in a PDF format by clicking the following link: Responding to people who experience domestic and family violence (PDF, 178.4 KB)

Last updated:

13 Mar 2023