How to support a friend if you think they could be at risk of violence

Illustration about violence at home during COVID-19, by Rizka Raisa.
"This illustration, '(Not) Everyone Can Feel Safe At Their Own Home,' took me almost more than a month to finish (specifically it’s 16h 22m, according to my screen time). This piece was inspired by stories told by people around the internet who have to stay with their abusive partner or toxic parents." Rizka, 19, Indonesia.

The coronavirus pandemic has tested us in unimaginable ways - coping with our new way of life continues to be a challenge for all of us, but this is an especially difficult time for those who do not feel safe in their own homes.

Because of  lockdowns and school closures, many young people are isolated with abusive family members or caregivers. 

If you have a friend who could be at risk of violence or abuse, here are six ways you can help them during this crisis:

1)  Let them know they are not alone

Those experiencing or witnessing violence at home or online may feel isolated from friends and extended family. Reach out in a manner your friend would be comfortable with, letting them know you are there for them and happy to listen. Kindness goes a long way.

2) Talk to a trusted adult, like a parent, teacher or counsellor

Share your concerns and that you want to help your friend. In many countries teachers and other adults have a legal obligation to report concerns of child abuse. If you think your friend is at immediate risk, you should call the emergency services.

3) Make your friend aware of what help is available 

Look up child protection agencies and organizations in your country. Child helplines can often provide support or counselling. You could also tell your friend that school staff, doctors and other members of the community can help in reporting a case.  

4)  Spend time together In Real Life 

If restrictions in your country allow, you could try to set up a regular physically distanced activity with your friend, like taking a walk. This will give them the opportunity to talk to you privately if they need to. 

5)    Talk about how you could safely intervene if needed

Come up with a code word that will alert you if your friend needs help getting out of a situation urgently or requires outside intervention from the authorities. If possible do this in consultation with a trusted adult. 

6)    Take care of yourself

This might feel like an overwhelming situation to be in. Remember to look after yourself and your own mental and physical health so you can be there for your friend.