How to Help a Neighbor Experiencing Abuse

Picture this: you’re sitting at home, watching TV, when you hear raised voices from your neighbors’ apartment or house. Then you hear what sounds like a plate breaking or something being knocked to the ground. You may think, “Is everything okay? Does my neighbor need help? How DO I help my neighbor?”

Sadly, with over 12 million people experiencing abuse each year, it’s likely you will be in a situation like the one above. Whether you know your neighbors or not, it can be hard to know how to best help them if they are experiencing abuse. You can offer support in different ways depending on what you are comfortable with. There are two important things to consider first, however.

  1. What to do if you have roommates. If you live with other people, it’s important to have a conversation about what everyone is comfortable doing. You don’t want your actions to cause anyone harm, whether it’s your roommates or the survivor. Talk with each other to determine what everyone feels safe doing and agree on a plan.
  2. Consider where you live. What you see or hear your neighbor experience will vary depending on where you live. If you live in a densely populated place, such as an apartment, dorm, or campsite/RV park, you might hear or see more than someone living in a suburban neighborhood or rural area. The type of area you live in will impact what you witness, as well as how you might offer support. No matter where you live, it’s important to know the warning signs of domestic violence.

Ways to Help a Neighbor Experiencing Abuse

Depending on how you feel, there are different ways you can help your neighbor experiencing domestic violence. Some people are content with talking to their neighbors (regardless of whether they know them) or offering support. However, other people might feel unsafe to do so. You should do what feels most appropriate and safe to you.

One important thing to remember (which can be hard to accept) is that you can’t ‘rescue’ someone from abuse. Yes, you can check in with your neighbor, offer resources, and potentially intervene when abuse is happening, as long as it is safe to do so. However, it is ultimately up to the survivor to act. It’s also important to remember that you don’t have to do anything you’re not comfortable with doing. Only act if you and the people you live with feel safe doing so.

Check-in on Your Neighbor

If you feel safe doing so, you can approach your neighbor and ask how they are doing. Maybe you cross paths when you both are checking the mail or doing laundry in the communal laundry room. If you choose to approach them, make sure to talk to them when their abusive partner is not around. You don’t want the abusive partner to know that you are checking in on the survivor or offering them support.

When you see them, a simple ‘How are you doing?’ is a good starting point. If the time feels right, you can let them know that you have heard or seen some things that you are concerned about. Tell them that you are worried and want to make sure they are okay. If they start to open up to you more and it’s appropriate, you can ask them questions like:

  • Have you talked to anyone about this?
  • Have you been able to reach out to any programs or resources for support?
  • Do you want me to call the police or security when I hear something bad is happening or is there another way I can help?

Make sure you do not pressure or push the survivor to share or do things they aren’t ready for. Abuse is about power and control, so having another person tell them what to do doesn’t help; it might even push them away from you. The best way you can help is to empower survivors to do what they feel is best for them. Don’t judge them or make accusations – abuse puts people in situations that others can’t understand. Simply be there for support.

Remember, you only have to do what feels safe. Don’t take any steps that feel inappropriate or dangerous to you. Your safety is always a priority.

Share Resources With Your Neighbor Experiencing Abuse

Another way you can help a neighbor experiencing abuse is by helping them connect to resources. There are different ways you can do this.

If you have a chance to speak with your neighbor when their partner isn’t around, you can share domestic violence programs that they can talk to and get support. You can share The Hotline or love is respect‘s contact information with them or encourage them to visit You can also use The Hotline’s Directory or 211 to look for programs and resources in your area that could help them.

If you are unable to approach your neighbor, there are indirect ways to share resources. If you live in an apartment complex or dorm, you could ask the office if they could hang posters or other materials in common areas such as the mailroom or laundry room. If you live in a neighborhood, you might consider putting informational cards in all your neighbor’s mailboxes. To be safe, see if the survivor or the abusive partner is the person who typically checks their mail and put information in everyone’s mailboxes, so it doesn’t seem suspicious or targeted.

Interrupting the Abuse

Many abusive partners don’t want people to know that they are abusive, so they will only be abusive in private. That is why many survivors are isolated from friends and family – the abusive partner doesn’t want people to see that side of them.

Interrupting the abuse is an indirect and non-aggressive way to try and stop abuse. These ‘usual’ or ‘typical’ actions can be used to distract the abusive partner. The idea is to create enough of a distraction or interruption that the abusive partner stops the abuse. There are ways to do this IF you and the people you live with feel safe doing so. Your safety is important, so don’t take any actions you aren’t prepared for.

For example, if your housing has a shared laundry space, you could knock on your neighbor’s door and ask if they have any detergent that you can use. Another idea would be to knock and ask them if they might have received a package or mail that you were waiting for and haven’t received yet. There’s also the classic – “I need to borrow a cup of sugar for some cookies I’m making.” The hope is to create a situation that interrupts the abuse and gives the survivor a chance to take care of themself or for the abusive partner to calm down.

Contacting the Police

There may be moments when you are worried about your neighbor’s safety or well-being (or even your own). In those moments, you may feel that calling the police is the best course of action. If possible, it’s best to ask the survivor if they are comfortable with you contacting the police. Depending on someone’s lived experiences, they may not feel safe involving the police. If you can’t ask them, think about the potential impacts of calling the police before you do.

Documenting What You See or Hear

Another way to help a neighbor experiencing abuse is to document what you see or hear.  is helpful because it shows a pattern of behaviors from an abusive partner. It’s also useful because it shows the different events the survivor has experienced or can help law enforcement understand the pattern of abuse.

To document abuse, keep track of what you see or hear. Write down the date and time it occurred, as well as any details you heard. You could write these events down in a calendar or journal or keep a running note on your phone with what you have heard. Documenting abuse is a way to support your neighbor without being directly involved in their situation.

Take Care of Yourself

Hearing and knowing that your neighbor is experiencing abuse can be an overwhelming experience. It could bring up memories of your own abusive relationship or cause you stress wondering what is happening. No matter how you support your neighbor, or if you even do, safety planning for yourself and self-care are crucial.

Safety Planning

Safety is a priority for anyone connected to an abusive relationship. Here are safety planning tips to consider if your neighbor is in an abusive relationship.

Talk to your neighbor when they are alone and their abusive partner is away.

This puts you in a safer situation and keeps the survivor safe because their partner doesn’t know people are offering support.

If you want to interrupt the abuse, have a plan.

Know what you are going to say (like asking if they got a package of yours) when trying to disrupt the abuse. You might also want to tell a close friend or family member what you are doing and give them a time when they should check in to make sure everything is okay. You can also have your phone ready to make an emergency call if needed.

Reach out to friends or family for support.

This could be a friend or family member coming and being with you to provide emotional support while the abuse occurs. It could also mean asking someone you trust to come with you when you try to interrupt the abuse.


It can be traumatizing to hear or see your neighbor experience abuse. This secondary trauma can seriously impact your well-being, especially if you hear multiple instances of abuse or something extreme. The following self-care tips are a good place to start.


Journaling can be a great way to process what you have seen or heard. It allows you to write down the thoughts and feelings you have inside and release them.

Talk to your support system.

It can help to talk with someone you trust about everything that is happening when your neighbor experiences abuse. Talking about it can help you feel not alone in the situation. You could also talk to a friend or family member as a type of emotional safety planning when you hear your neighbor being abusive.

Find a peaceful space for yourself.

This might be a room that is farther away from your neighbor, making it harder to hear any traumatizing sounds. It could also be a place outside your home where you can get away from things and take a break.

Minimize triggers.

If your neighbor is experiencing abuse, it might be a good idea to limit media like TV, podcasts, or movies that depict domestic violence or talk about abuse.

Seek professional help.

Depending on your situation, it may be necessary to seek professional counseling. Trauma can impact your life in multiple ways, so speaking with a counselor about the situation may help. GoodTherapy or BetterHelp are two sites that can help you find therapists in your area.

Help is available.

It is hard to see or hear your neighbor experiencing abuse. It may be triggering and bring up memories of your own past relationship or cause stress worrying about them. There are ways you can help your neighbor who is experiencing abuse. If you’re concerned about your neighbor and don’t quite know how to help, our advocates are available 24/7 to offer insight and support. You are not alone.