Talking to Abusive Men

Are you concerned about someone you think is abusive to his partner, but don’t know what to do? This information describes the warning signs and how you can talk to abusive men about their behaviour.
Everyone in the community has a role to play in helping to prevent woman abuse. You can reach out to organizations in your community that support abused women and those that can help abusers.

Warning Signs of Abuse

You may suspect abuse is happening to a neighbour, friend or family member, but do not know what to do or how to talk about it. You may worry about making the situation worse. By understanding the warning signs and risk factors of woman abuse, you can help.

Sometimes people around an abuser overlook the behaviour and only focus on supporting the abused woman. At other times, people may sympathize with the abuser, which may inadvertently escalate this abuse. Talking to an abusive man is an important part of preventing woman abuse, but it needs to be done carefully. Abusive behaviour won’t go away on its own. There are services in the community to help abusers.

How to Talk to Men Who Are Abusive

Here is what you can do when you recognize the warning signs of abuse:

  • Choose the right time and place to have a full discussion
  • Approach the abuser when they are calm
  • Be direct and clear about what you have seen.
  • Tell the abuser that their behaviour is their responsibility. Avoid making judgmental comments. Don’t validate any attempts to blame others for their abusive behaviour.
  • Inform the abuser that his behaviour needs to stop.
  • Don’t try to force the abuser to change or to seek help.
  • Tell the abuser that you are concerned for the safety of their partner and children.
  • Never argue with an abuser about their abusive actions. Recognize that confrontational, argumentative approaches may make the situation worse and put an abused woman at higher risk.
  • Call the police if the woman or children’s safety is in jeopardy.

If the abuser denies the abuse:

  • Abusers will often minimize the impact and deny that they have done anything wrong. They may state that it isn’t that bad or blame the victim for their actions. This type of behaviour deflects their own responsibility for his actions.
  • Keep your conversation focused on your concerns for their family’s safety and well-being and reiterate that abuse is never an answer.
  • Keep the lines of communication open and look for opportunities to help the abuser find support.

Always keep yourself safe. Don’t get in the middle of an assault. Call the police in an emergency.

Overcoming Your Hesitation to Help

Here are some concerns you may have about whether you should help:

Points of Concern

Points to Consider

You feel it’s none of your business

It could be a matter of life or death. Violence is everyone’s business

You don’t know what to say

Saying you care and are concerned is a good start

You might make things worse

Doing nothing could make things worse

It’s not serious enough to involve the police

Police are trained to respond and utilize other resources

You are afraid this violence will turn to you or your family

Speak to the abuser alone. Let the police know if you receive threats

You think the victim doesn’t really want to leave because they keep going back

She may not have had the support she needed

You are afraid the abuser will become angry with you

Maybe, but it gives you the chance to offer your help

You feel that both partners are your friends

One friend is being abused and lives in fear

You believe that if the abuser wanted help or wished to change their behaviour, he would ask for help

He may be too ashamed to ask for help

You think it is a private matter

It isn’t when someone is being hurt


The Assaulted Women’s Helpline at 1-866-863-0511 offers a 24-hour telephone and TTY 1-866-863-7868 crisis line for abused women in Ontario. The service is anonymous and confidential and is provided in up to 154 languages.

Helpline staff can support you in helping the abused woman or abuser. They will discuss the warning signs of abuse you have seen and give you practical advice on ways to help.

For more information about the services of the Assaulted Women’s Helpline visit: In an emergency, call your local police service.

Most Ontarians feel a personal responsibility for reducing violence against women. Recognizing it is the first step. Take the warning signs seriously. > link warning signs again
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December 2019

Neighbours, Friends & Families

Disponible en français

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