If you are worried about a friend or family member it can be extremely difficult to know what to say or how to help them. If their abuser is isolating them from friends and family this can be even more difficult.
What you can do –
- listen to them and believe what they say. Many abusers behave completely differently in public, it essential that you believe what they are saying, even if it seems unlikely
- do not judge them but reassure them that it is not their fault
- do not tell them what to do or criticise them for not acting sooner, they must make this decision in their own time and when it is safe to do so
- encourage them and offer to stand by them
- be patient when they are talking about the abuse
- allow them to open up in their own time
- tell them what they are doing well to build their confidence, it is likely their abuser will have repeatedly told them they are ‘useless’ or ‘stupid’ and they need to know this is not the case
- tell them where they can Get Help, or how to Keep Safe, and how to protect themselves when using Technology.
- you could offer to be part of their safety plan. This could include agreeing a code word or other action that will signal that they need further help from you. Agree ahead of time, if possible, what that help would be but remember that your own safety must remain paramount, DO NOT put yourself at risk of harm – there are alternative ways to help
If you are not sure if they are experiencing abuse there are early warning signs that you can look for. These include if –
- they are extremely frightened
- they have stopped seeing their friends
- they have unexplained injuries
- they have significantly changed their personal appearance
- their property is getting damaged
- their boyfriend or girlfriend is constantly checking up on where they are, what they are doing, who they are with etc
- they have become depressed
- they have unexplained absences from school or play truant
- they have poor concentration
- they have thrown themselves completely into their school work in order to take their minds off the abuse
- they run away
There could be other things – if you feel worried the best thing is to talk to them when it is safe to do so.