Domestic violence, family, friends and neighbours

World for domestic violence social network approach

Domestic violence is still largely seen as a private matter between two individuals and few services successfully engage the informal social networks (e.g., family, friends, neighbours and work colleagues) of survivors [1]. Even ‘community’ responses, frequently focus on service providers rather than survivors’ social networks [2]. This is unfortunate as these networks can play a crucial role in preventing domestic violence and in supporting survivors.

Leaving a violent partner is not easy and many women take numerous attempts before ending a violent relationship. They fear repercussions, they face potential poverty, they aren’t sure what will happen to their children, there are a wide range of emotional and practical barriers to leaving, and they don’t know where to go [3, 4]. Violent partners also make it difficult for women to leave by keeping them poor, making them afraid and controlling their movements [3].

Many women are reluctant to tell the police or service providers that they are experiencing abuse. Interviews with 2,214 Australian women who had survived domestic violence found that the women were much more likely to tell their family, friend or neighbour than the police or an agency [5].

Who survivors of domestic violence tell

Who survivors of domestic violence tell about their abuse

Even if they aren’t told, other people often have an idea that there are problems in abusive relationships, and could play an important role in supporting survivors or even help them leave the abuse.

Interestingly there is little research into the experience of family, friends and neighbours in providing support [6] and little is known about how friends, families and neighbours respond when they learn someone is experiencing domestic violence. Beeble and her colleagues [7] found the most common responses were to provide support by listening to the survivors’ experience of abuse and providing emotional support. Other strategies included providing a referral to a support organisation (including a women’s refuge), informing the police or other family members and providing practical assistance (e.g. providing a place to stay, helping them move or assisting financially).

If we can make it easier, and more socially acceptable, for the informal social networks of people in violent relationships to become involved, a range of possibilities open up.

A social network-oriented approach

Goodman and Smyth [1] call for a social network-oriented approach where service providers actively engage the local community in supporting survivors of domestic violence. Such an approach could include:

  1. Exploring with survivors who could be willing to provide assistance and how they could be involved
  2. Supporting a women’s informal social network as they try to provide assistance
  3. Encouraging family, friends, neighbours and work colleagues to contact support lines to discuss how they could help
  4. Helping survivors to maintain and expand their informal social networks.

One of the impacts of domestic violence is social isolation and so the informal networks of survivors often shrink. In most cases, however, there will still be people around – some of whom might be unknown to the survivor (e.g., neighbours) – who would be willing to make a difference. Engaging social networks could make a big difference to many survivors.

The Domestic Violence Resource Centre in Victoria has some useful information for families, friends and neighbours, and I’ve previously posted over 70 things people can do where they suspect someone is experiencing domestic violence.

If you liked this post you might want to follow my blog (top right-hand corner of the blog), and you might like to look at:

  1. What can you do when someone you know is experiencing domestic violence?
  2. Domestic and family violence – What about men?
  3. Domestic violence – why doesn’t she just leave?
  4. What is the Strengths Perspective?
  5. Strengths-based approaches = HOPE
  6. What are Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) workshops?


  1. Goodman, L.A. and K.F. Smyth, A call for a social network-oriented approach to services for survivors of intimate partner violence. Psychology of Violence, 2011. 1(2): p. 79-92.
  2. Haq, J. and R. Lewis, The violence of community? Conceptualizations of ‘community’ in responses to intimate partner abuse. Community Development Journal, 2013.
  3. Parkinson, D., K. Burns, and C. Zara, A powerful journey: a research report. Women reflect on what helped them leave. 2004, Wangaratta: Women’s Health Goulburn North East.
  4. Bosch, K. and M.B. Bergen, The Influence of Supportive and Nonsupportive Persons in Helping Rural Women in Abusive Partner Relationships Become Free from Abuse. Journal of Family Violence, 2006. 21(5): p. 311-320.
  5. Mouzos, J. and T. Makkai, Women’s experiences of male violence: findings from the Australian component of the International Violence Against Women Survey (IVAWS). 2004, Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology.
  6. Latta, R.E. and L.A. Goodman, Intervening in Partner Violence Against Women: A Grounded Theory Exploration of Informal Network Members’ Experiences. Counseling Psychologist, 2011. 39(7): p. 973-1023.
  7. Beeble, M.L., et al., Factors Related to Willingness to Help Survivors of Intimate Partner Violence. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 2008. 23(12): p. 1713-1729.

About Graeme Stuart

Lecturer (Family Action Centre, Newcastle Uni), blogger (Sustaining Community), Alternatives to Violence Project facilitator, environmentalist, father. Passionate about families, community development, peace, sustainability.
This entry was posted in Families & parenting, Working with communities and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

38 Responses to Domestic violence, family, friends and neighbours

  1. Rachel B.1102 says:

    “Leaving a violent partner is not easy and many women take numerous attempts before ending a violent relationship. They fear repercussions, they face potential poverty, they aren’t sure what will happen to their children, there are a wide range of emotional and practical barriers to leaving, and they don’t know where to go [3, 4].” I think that this is the most hardest part of an abusive relationship. And i hate for the children who go through this. Because children who try to stand up to the abuser to protect their parent, somethimes get abused themselves.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Breana says:

    It is great to see that social networks are actually helping those dealing with abuse.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Rolla1102 says:

    It amazes me that domestic violence isn’t really talked about even though the effects it has on the victims or witnesses tend to spill into all areas of their lives. I understand how hard it is to leave a situation like this i believe that the involvement of informal social networks are the best way to reach these victims.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Fake Name 1102 says:

    Interesting to see that victims prefer telling immediate family members or friends rather than contacting the police about the issue. It must all tie in with that fear of leaving a violent partner.


    • Rolla1102 says:

      I think it might also be fear of their situation becoming too public. Friends and family might be able to help them in a way that is more discreet.


  5. Sagar1002 says:

    It is hard to see child being abused, and i believe violence will change their way of life. They will soon start to accept violence in their life, which will make them who they are. We ,as a community, have to stop these violence before it gets too late.


  6. jaime ramirez says:

    I can see why a child would be considered a victim of domestic violence by simply living in a home where that is common. children grow up mentally abused and seeing that by one of their loved ones is worse. Id hate to witness some thing like that and i can only imagine the pain and drastic effect that can have on children.


    • Rachel B.1102 says:

      I agree, it also affects their relationship with other people too. They sometimes grow up to trust no one or be an abuser themselves


  7. joe 1102 says:

    Domestic violence and incidents related to domestic violence are terrible. For someone to be abusive towards their children or spouse (or anyone they “love”), has most likely been abused themselves at some point. This issue is terrible, but if I can be honest, I don’t believe the issue of domestic violence will ever be completely resolved, but we can try our best to reduce the number of cases.


  8. AS 1102 says:

    I think it’s also important to also consider the male victims of domestic abuse. Boys might grow up thinking that it is okay for a girl to use violence against them just because society tells them that they’re a man and they should just “suck it up”.


    • Yes I agree we need to consider male victims of domestic violence, but we also need to recognise that the vast majority of perpetrators are male. We need to look at the context of the violence too. Domestic violence can mean many different things. When I use the term I’m thinking of situations where there is more than physical violence between two individuals. Domestic violence involves power and control. I’d like to know the difference in how many women hit by their partners are really fearful compared to men hit by their partners. My suspicion is that many more women are really fearful.
      At the same time, I agree that some men are victims of domestic violence and need support.


  9. pseudonym 1102 says:

    I think domestic violence is absolutely despicable. It can have a very big influence on a person’s life. It is even worse for a child who has been a victim of abuse their whole life because they have to live with that for the rest of their lives which is really unfortunate. No person or even a child should ever go through that.


  10. Jerome Smith english 1102 says:

    Domestic Violence can mainly effect children at a young age. When i read the article I was surprised at how many young children experience domestic violence.


    • joe 1102 says:

      I was really surprised at that as well. I think its more of a prominent issue just because it’s hard to actually find out that some form of domestic violence is taking place.


  11. pseudonym 1102 says:

    I did not know that if a child lived in a household where abuse took place and not a direct recipient of abuse that the child was also considered a victim of abuse. Domestic Violence can affect someone in great power and you never know what goes on behind closed doors.


  12. pseudonymn 1102 says:

    I agree that domestic Violence/abuse is absolutely despicable and no one should every have to go through something like that. Although these mothers did not ask to be in an abusive relationship, they still have a voice, and with that voice they have the ability to help themselves out of those situations.


    • AS 1102 says:

      It it is important that the abused victims use their voices. And though might they try to get away to use it, they are just too afraid of what they’re abuser might do if they found out. It is important we ensure the safety of victims from their abusers when they are trying to seek help.


    • But it can be incredibly hard for women to leave a violent relationship.


  13. Kanea1102 says:

    I think domestic violence is disgusting! People should learn a healthier way to deal with personal issues instead of taking their problems out on others. It’s obvious that everybody goes through triumphs but that is no excuse to physically or verbally hurt another person.


    • pseudonymn 1102 says:

      I completely agree with you. they are way too many people on this earth to worry about, but your significant other should not be one of them.


    • pseudonym 1102 says:

      I completely agree with you. Physically or verbally hurting someone is never the answer and people should definitely find different ways of releasing anger.


  14. Melissa 1102 says:

    I think inserting some form of social comfort is good and all but, personally I think these women need some mental strengthening to be able to overcome the alpha male. Once they are able to think properly they will make clear cut decisions, but this is easier said than done. The abuse will go to someone that is not in their immediate relation but also want someone they are familiar with, which would be the friend or neighbor. Therefore the friend or neighbor needs to get correct advice in handling the situation.


    • Hi Melissa
      I think that one things that friends and neighbours need to know is that it is important not to tell a survivor what to do and how they should respond. They need to be in control.


      • Diallo1102 says:

        Indubitably, friends and neighbors need to know is not necessary to tell a survivor what to do and to teach them how they should respond. In other circumstances,i feel like you need to shake up and protect yourself.


    • Diallo1102 says:

      Domestic abuse, also known as spousal abuse, occurs when one person in an intimate relationship or marriage tries to dominate and control the other person. Domestic abuse that includes physical violence is called domestic violence.


      • Kanea1102 says:

        Great way to define. I hate the fact that a person fails to realize that when they act in this inappropriate manner, it affects everybody around them–including innocent children, affecting their lives forever. I can’t imagine it making that person feel better about themselves. I wish people would try harder to seek help so domestic violence wouldn’t occur.


      • There are so many ways to describe this. Domestic violence normally includes dominating and controlling behaviour. But I suspect that people think of physical violence when it is talked about. I have heard women say the emotional and psychological violence was worse than the physical violence.
        The term spousal abuse is a good one.


      • jaime ramirez 1102 says:

        it is true and very sad that one person can impact the whole family by his or hers actions but unfortunately it is something that occurs every day. Domestic violence is something that should really be taken seriously by police. it is a crime that should be punishable by more years in jail and higher bonds.


    • pseudonym 1102 says:

      I agree with this idea that women need some sort of support to overcome their situation and the overpowering dominant male in an abusive relationship.


      • Jerome1102 says:

        I totally agree, Domestic violence usually occurs when one person in relationship thinks they have to be controlling or overpower their spouse. It can affect people for the rest of their lives.


  15. Pooyaka says:

    “Domestic violence is still largely seen as a private matter between two individuals”
    I recently read about a good critic by feminists on domestic privacy. Basically, they say it’s a notion created by men in patriarchal societies so that men can keep and exercise their power over women in their houses.


    • Melissa 1102 says:

      I do concur men who abuse women impel it for showing dominance in the relationship which is set by a patriarchal societies. I feel as though the male wants to feel he is essential but if the female were to show signs of independence then the male would feel as though they are not required anymore and be abandoned therefore induce abuse and make the woman feel dependent on him.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Pooyaka
      I’m not sure that this is why domestic privacy was created, but I would agree that it is often a consequence of it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sagar1002 says:

        I think Pooyaka has a point but also think it more than just about power. it probably did get started like that but nowadays we have to think maybe its more of a mental response because I believe we moved on from men being superior to women time frame.


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