Serving Clients in Knox, Blount, Anderson, Loudon, Sevier & Roane Counties

Signs of Domestic Abuse and How to Help


Priscilla Du Preez

Your friend keeps cancelling visits with you.  The boyfriend/girlfriend is ALWAYS around, and you cannot have time with your friend alone.  You see unexplained bruises on your elderly mother or father.  Your “besty” seems stressed but won’t tell you why. All of these signs may point to someone you care about being a victim of domestic abuse.  How can you figure it out?  And, how do you even bring up  the subject and express your concern?                                         


At Held Law Firm, we have spent decades interviewing people in crisis, and we are always on the lookout for people who may be the victims of domestic abuse.  They may not be ready to face it, and they may be scared of their abuser.  In addition, they may not be able to admit it, but we still should be alert to the signs.  We must be ready to ask the right questions.

  1. Do not confront the potential abuser.  If they think you suspect, they will isolate the victim from you.
  2. Find a moment you can talk to your loved one or friend alone. Be clear in asking about the potential abuse.
  3. If you can get them to disclose, then discuss a plan that assures they are safe when their partner gets angry.  Don’t accept “Don’t worry, I’ll be alright”.  Tell them you ARE worried, and that you will be less worried if there is a plan.
  4. Ask them what the worst incident was and when it was.  Assess how close they are to severe bodily or psychological injury.  Decide whether intervention is appropriate, and how significant that intervention needs to be.
  5. Encourage them.  Stop them from criticizing themselves.  Remember, there are many reasons a person ends up in this dangerous situation; being crazy or stupid is not one of them.  When they defend their abuser, remind them that getting hit/shoved/smacked/threatened is NOT OK! 
  6. Remind them also that they are allowed to have friends outside a relationship.

Realize that the person you are talking to, if indeed they have been abused, will likely have symptoms of PTSD.  They may manifest in the following ways:

  • They will not want to talk about it.
  • They will want to change the subject.
  • They may show signs of stress such as picking at their nails, twisting their hair, laughing at things that are not funny, becoming tearful for no apparent reason, rambling on unrelated subjects, jiggling their foot, complaining about physical discomfort, etc.
  • They may defend their abuser and put themselves down.

Your job is NOT to save them, rather to make them feel safe about disclosing the violence.  You should remain calm, listen, avoid strong reactions, and be supportive.

Know what resources (shown here) are available to help and remind them of these resources.

Knox County

City of Knoxville

Family Justice Center

And, call Held Law Firm at 865.637.6550 or any other lawyer that you trust.  We deal with this all the time.  We will help you get them the help they need.