If it is a valid IPS question and does not involve threats of physical harm, leave it open.
If it's off-topic: easy solution, close but leave a comment pointing to relevant resources.
If it sounds like OP is in physical danger: this main meta post is focused on posts from suicidal users, but is relevant to physical abuse as well.
- Close the post as Off Topic [with a note pointing to resources]
- Flag for a moderator who can lock or delete the question to prevent discussion from continuing in the comments.
- For any credible threat of bodily harm - whether targeted at the author themselves or someone else - use the contact us option at the bottom of any page on the site to let us know about this. If need-be, we'll follow up to make sure the situation is handled appropriately. Moderators can and usually should use the “contact community team” option in the “mod → actions” menu on the user’s profile page.
In situations like that, I think the best answer is "contact a local shelter" - the internet can help you fortify yourself mentally against verbal or emotional abuse but not against physical threats. So we should close such posts and point them to the appropriate resources.
Otherwise, I think these are answerable. If you suspect abuse, you can...
- Describe the red flags. Explain why you think the behavior described in the post crosses a line. Just don't go beyond that and try to diagnose OP's partner, for example; that is something that should be left to professionals.
- Suggest some resources. Even if you aren't 100% sure, a professional would be able to tell if it's just an "ordinary" bad situation or something worse.
For example, your answer might include something like
I'm not a professional, but there are some red flags in your description: [examples] - that's not a respectful or loving way to treat someone close to you. I encourage you to [talk to a therapist, find a local shelter, call a helpline, etc.] for support if [this continues, you feel unsafe, etc.].
We've had a couple questions here already about suspected abuse.
We can also take cues from an older SE site, Parenting, which also gets questions about difficult situations. For example, I am 21 and I am terrified beyond belief of my father, and What do I do about my abusive father?.
These are both about how to cope with a situation that OP knows is abusive. Answers focus on how to obtain help: "call a shelter", "call Social Services", "talk to a school teacher or counselor", "find a trusted family member or friend to stay with", etc. which is something answers here could do as well.
These aren't the same as suicidal or mental illness questions
I think it is feasible for a layperson to research and understand how to handle an abusive situation well enough to write a good answer.
Questions about suicide or mental illness are different: us ordinary folk can provide friendly support, but not solutions (and we're a questions-and-answers site, not a questions-and-friendly-support site). Furthermore, mental health issues are at their root an intrapersonal problem, whereas abuse happens in relationships and so is interpersonal.
For example, if a friend sat down with me and said, "I have bipolar, how do I deal with it?", I can't solve their problem. I can say "I'm sorry to hear that, I'll be here for you" - but in the end, they need a psychiatrist to figure out and treat the root of the problem.
But if a friend said, "I'm in an abusive relationship, how do I deal with it?" I can help them come up with a solution. I can say "Okay, talk to X, tell them Y, call a shelter, etc." This is something ordinary people have been doing for many years, and there are accessible resources on the internet, so answers can (and should) be backed up to explain their recommendations. So, I think it's reasonable for our community to generate useful and quality answers for these situations, given the caveats at the beginning of my post.