Hi Abe,

I was torn about whether to ask for help about this, but I’ve been noticing some stuff in my friend’s relationship recently which is a bit worrying. Her partner is always putting her down in front of other people, and she recently made a comment to me about how she’s “not allowed” to go to this party that some mutual friends of ours are having. The other day we were meant to catch up for coffee and her partner called her like three times and then he randomly showed up and they left abruptly. What can I do to support my friend?

Sincerely,
Worried


Dear Worried,

What you’re describing sounds like a situation of coercive control, a form of domestic violence which is often harder to spot. It can also be difficult to know what to do in this situation from outside the relationship.

The next time you see your friend you might want to check in with her and ask how things are going generally. One of the most important things in this situation is to avoid intervening in a way that escalates the situation. It is also critical not to intervene in a way that will cause your friend to isolate herself; be there for your friend in a non-judgemental way, and let them know that they have your support, whatever decision(s) they make about this relationship.

This can be a case of finding that delicate balance between letting them know that how they are being treated is not okay and not their fault, but that you understand and support whatever choices they make.

Your friend can also call the domestic violence support line 1800 Respect at 1800 737 732 for further advice and support.

Sincerely,
Abe