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Information for friends, neighbours and relatives

This is how you can support

Friends, neighbours or relatives can play an important role in connection with domestic violence. Their behaviour can have a helpful influence on the situation and the person affected.

We would like to give you some suggestions here, depending on whether you can or want to get in touch with the person perpetrating the violence (perpetrator) or the person affected by domestic violence (victim).

Support for people affected by domestic violence

As a friend, neighbour or relative, you are often the first to find out about the predicament the person concerned is in. It is very important for the person experiencing violence that you do not look away. Hints and conspicuous behaviour can be a call for help. Do not ignore them! In an acute emergency situation, please contact the police!

If you are not sure what constitutes a "normal" argument and when domestic violence has occurred, the information on forms of violence may also be helpful for you.

The situation of the victim

From the perspective of an outsider, the "solution" often seems simple. But for the victim, numerous fears, worries, anxieties and hopes play a role, which are often neither recognised nor understood by others.

In violent relationships, it is almost typical for the person at risk to trivialise or deny the event to themselves and others.

From an outsider's perspective, the victim's behaviour often appears contradictory.

Showing understanding is important

As a rule, the victim is torn between the fear of further threats and abuse and the hope that the perpetrator will improve. The victim's situation is not as clear-cut as is assumed from the outside: Instead, the victim is often in an ambivalent situation. There is often a simultaneous desire for the perpetrator to be punished and for an "intact" relationship. In addition, there are economic hardships and fears if the perpetrator is responsible for the joint income. Victims often have the justified fear that the violence will take on even worse forms and escalate for good if they separate from the perpetrator.

The complex coercive situation of those affected often makes help difficult. In any case, please respect the wishes of the person concerned, even if they are incomprehensible to you as an outsider.

From an outsider's perspective, this often seems contradictory.

Respond to the victim

It is certainly difficult for close relatives or friends to bear if a woman does not leave the violent situation immediately. But only she can make the decision because she has to live with the consequences.

Even well-intentioned instructions can increase the pressure on the woman; offers, on the other hand, are a relief:

  • "You can come to me at any time",
  • "You can call me at any time"
  • and a reference to professional support.

Knowing that there is someone the victim can turn to in confidence offers important support and security in this difficult situation.

The following procedure has proven to be helpful:

Provide information about support services:

Share information about local support services, women's shelters, counselling centres or domestic violence hotlines. Encourage the person affected to seek professional help.

Joint safety planning:

If the person concerned is willing, you can develop a safety plan together. This could include establishing emergency contacts, hiding important documents or planning escape routes. You may also offer to let the victim escape to you (with the children) or to pick them up in an emergency.

Encourage professional help:

Motivate the person affected to contact professional counsellors, therapists or lawyers who have experience with domestic violence.

Remain discreet:

Respect the privacy of the person affected and act discreetly. Avoid disclosing information without consent.

Stay in touch:

Stay in contact and signal that you will continue to provide support. Domestic violence can be a lengthy process and the victim may need time to make decisions.


Ultimately, the person concerned has control over their decisions. The role of friends, relatives or neighbours is to offer support and encourage the person concerned to seek professional help.

Don't look the other way with offenders

Friends, neighbours and relatives can help to bring the topic of domestic violence out of the social dark field and thus contribute to breaking the taboo.

Here are some steps you can take if you observe or suspect a current case of domestic violence.

Prioritise safety:

If you witness or are aware of acute danger, call the police immediately. Prioritise safety first.

Keep your distance:

Keep your own distance from the person committing the violence to ensure your own safety. Direct intervention can aggravate the situation.

Inform neighbours:

If you feel safe, you could inform other neighbours to create a network of awareness and support. However, this should be done with caution and respect for privacy.

Recommend professional help:

Encourage the person using violence to seek professional help, such as therapy or counselling. Pass on information about suitable services.

Encouraging people who use violence to seek professional help is a crucial step in helping to solve the problem.

Speak to the perpetrator about your impression of their behaviour without judging them from the outset, as you know them differently. This is the best way to get him to question his behaviour and get help if necessary.