4 Tips for Responding to a Disclosure of Abuse

4 Tips for Responding to a Disclosure of Abuse

One question we are often asked is: “How do I respond if a friend or family member discloses that they are being abused?”. This is an important question, that doesn’t have one correct answer. However, we have put together these suggestions to help you navigate this conversation.


Listening to a disclosure is the first thing you should do when somebody shares with you. Make space, and a safe environment, for them to speak freely about their experience. Listen without judgement and without interruption. They are making a very brave step in their journey to leave an abusive environment and should be given the opportunity to share. Understand that abuse is not only physical; it comes in many forms including psychological, financial, technological, spiritual, and through isolation.

Ask what they want you to do with the information.

And be prepared that the answer might be nothing. For many women, this might be the first time they are disclosing this information. It takes an average of 6 times for a woman to try to leave an abuser before leaving for good. By providing a safe and non-judgmental space for them to share, you are helping them take this first step. Often, it is our instinct to respond with questions or suggestions. We recommend that the only question you ask is “How can I help?” or “What do you need me to do?”. Allow them to have the power over their next steps.


Women are often not believed when they disclose abuse. This can be for a variety of reasons. One, the abuser has isolated the woman from her family or friends, thus making it difficult for them to share. Also, the abuser is often manipulative and has been charismatic and appears very caring with friends, family members, and colleagues, so the initial reaction might be to question the statement. Refrain from making comments such as “But he doesn’t seem the type!” or “Really, he has always been so nice to me.”. Believing her is the best support you can provide.  

Other validating statements you can offer include statements such as: “This is not your fault”, “Thank you for telling me”, or “You do not deserve this”.  

Provide resources.

The Kelowna Women’s Shelter has a variety of programs and services available for women experiencing abuse in the Central Okanagan. These include our emergency transitional housing, our second stage program, Outreach services, the PEACE program for children and youth aged 3-18, and our 24/7 helpline. Let her know there are supports available to her. All she needs to do is call, text, or email, and someone from KWS will be available to help, without judgement, at any time.  

Helpline: 250.763.1040

Textline: 236.970.0704

Email: Support@KelownaWomensShelter.ca.  

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Abuse is never okay.
Asking for help is.

Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you need us.
Our support team is on duty 24/ 7 and ready to help.

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