Here's a quick easy guide.
When you're talking to a victim
You're chatting away, saying casually, "So, you broke up, huh? What happened?" and the person you're talking to bursts into tears, shuts down or is visibly uncomfortable. Your heart sinks and you realise you've entered difficult territory.
#1 Rule: Resist the impulse to ask about the gory details!
Do not ask for details
1) It is asking the victim to relive the trauma, which is cruel.
2) Asking for details can also sound like, "I need to know your reasoning", which implies you have the right to judge, which you don't.
I'm so sorry. I can see this is painful for you.And leave it up to the victim.
Would you like to talk about this or shall we change the subject?
When you're the victim
Sometimes you want to talk and sometimes you don't. In case you need a script for when you're tired and fed up, try this:
It was a difficult/violent/abusive relationship
You will understand this is painful to me
I won't discuss it
IF THEY PUSH: try and resist the temptation to call them damn insensitive interfering busybodies. Although it's an accurate description, it probably won't help.
Definitely don't bop them on the nose. Tempting as it is, it's illegal.
Deep breath, centre yourself and repeat forcefully, "This is painful to me. I won't discuss it."
Or simply walk away.
Don't worry about seeming to be rude. Removing yourself from being harassed is simply sensible behaviour.
Want to support victims?
Many victims are paralysed by public interest and scrutiny. Being questioned, gossiped about and examined by all and sundry is being traumatised all over again.
Here's how you can transform your family parties, office, school and club into a safe space that supports victims:
#1 Shut down gossip.
Beatings, shouting matches and drama are fuel for gossip but it's a dagger to the heart for victims.
When people are relishing the horror with juicy gossip, speak up. "This is not a TV drama. This is real people hurting. I won't listen to this kind of talk."
#2 When you see a victim being pestered, speak up.
"John/Julie have made it clear they don't want to discuss it. Respect that." And then change the subject.
#3 Point out uncomfortable home truths.
"This is a private matter for John/Julie. It does not concern others."
"This is a private personal matter for John/Julie. You don't have a right to judge."