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What happened?

For the witness of violence

One in ten adults in a couple’s relationship experience domestic violence every year. As it is often difficult for people suffering from violence to seek help, bystanders have a crucial role to play in taking notice and offering support. Your intervention could save someone’s life! 

Domestic violence is a hidden problem that is often confined to the home. People may not seek help because they are afraid. They may fear that the violence will become more serious or that they will lose the children. Shame can also make it difficult to seek help. A person may be afraid of not being believed or of being accused of provoking violence. A person suffering from violence may also mistakenly believe that they cannot be helped. It is therefore crucial that bystanders support the person and report suspected violence immediately.

What are the signs of intimate partner violence?

There are many and varied signs indicative of violence. If you notice a change in the behaviour of someone you know, for example, a previously sociable friend avoids going out, does not talk about their private life and is withdrawn, then this could be a sign of an abusive relationship. Similarly, noticeable changes in children’s behaviour indicate that all may not be well at home. When you notice a change, draw attention to it delicately and find out what is happening in the life of the acquaintance or loved one.

Physical violence is indicated by bruising and frequent absences from work or school. Although mental violence does not leave physical traces, it is accompanied by increased stress, anxiety and poorer health. Constantly feeling unwell, an inability to concentrate and an overreaction to mistakes indicate that something is wrong. If you notice that a colleague is struggling, ask them how they are doing.

If your loved one has unexpectedly run up debts, had their utilities (water, electricity) turned off, or is looking for a cheap place to live even though they used to own their own property before, then this could be a sign of economic violence.

People who suffer from violence are characterised by a constant feeling of fear and vigilance. If a person changes their behaviour in the presence of their partner, then this may show fear of violence.

Looking for excuses and justifications for their loved one’s bad behaviour can mean that all is not well in the relationship. This is common in older people who cover up or soften their children’s violent and disparaging behaviour. Older people’s lack of awareness of violence and their dependence on their abuser can increase the risk of economic abuse or neglect. Dirty clothes, unkempt hair, loss of weight or broken aids can all be signs of neglect.

Loud voices from neighbours can also indicate violence. If you suspect something is wrong, chances are it is. Expressing your concerns is always justified and will not harm anyone, but may save someone’s life.

If you hear screaming and shouting, voices suggesting violence or cries of help from neighbours, call the police immediately on 112.

If you suspect violence in the family of a neighbour, colleague, relative or friend, speak up. If you do not know how to do this, the specialists of the victim support helpline 116 006 provide advice on how to intervene.

If you see a fight on the street or anything else that requires assistance from the police, call 112. 

After that:

  • Think about your own safety. It is often advisable not to intervene yourself, but to call the police and wait for a police patrol to arrive, and to leave the dangerous place yourself.
  • If a crime can be prevented without harm, try to stop the criminals. Often, all you need to do is let the perpetrators know that they have been spotted by making a loud noise.
  • If possible, take a mental note of or write down the details of possible suspects and witnesses and pass these on to the police.
  • If someone has been injured as a result of a crime, tell the police officer on duty or call 112.
  • Be attentive and report any suspicions to the police.
How to help someone in need?

Many of us have seen a person in need in a public place. Yet it often does not occur to us that we can also help the person in need ourselves. Neither the police nor the ambulance will reach a person in need huddled up at a bus stop unless someone tells them.

For example, call 112 if you hear shouting, swearing and cries for help from the neighbouring apartment, or if you witness violence. An abuser can also attack a bystander, so it is not a good idea to go and settle the dispute yourself.

Talk to the victim when you communicate with them. Do not judge them, but help them understand that suffering from violence is not their fault. Encourage them to seek help and contact the police, victim support, a women’s support centre or a doctor.


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