My family member/client has told me they have been a victim of crime – what do I do?
It is quite common that a person will disclose to a support worker, parent or carer first, when they have been a victim of abuse. You are often the people they trust, and it is not unusual that they do not have any other friends or networks to turn to for support.
Sometimes people may tell someone straight away and sometimes people may wait years to disclose what has happened. Not telling someone may have been the safest thing they could do at the time (the perpetrator may have made threats), or they may not have known anything was wrong.
It is a complex ethical situation for parents/ carers/ support workers and needs to be undertaken with the utmost compassion and awareness about your role and responsibility.
- Are they safe from harm?
- Do they need to seek medical assistance?
- Does the perpetrator still have access to the person?
If it was a recent assault – do they need to be moved out of danger or need medical attention? Sometimes you may need to take someone to a medical or emergency clinic – for example if they have been physically assaulted.
If someone reports a sexual assault they may need to be supported to go to a sexual assault service at a hospital. Whatever the response it is important you talk to the person about where you are both going and why it is important that they get medical treatment.
What do I do when they tell me
- Tell them that you are glad they told you, and that it was the right thing to do.
- Take time to listen to what they are saying.
- Write it down if possible – it is important to keep an accurate record of what they are saying in their words. If you are the first person they have disclosed to then you are a witness if it proceeds to a legal case.
Provide emotional support
- Offer them comfort and emotional support, reassurance and provide them with some information about victims support services – 1800 Respect 1800 737 732, DV Connect 1800 811 811, Victims Linkup 1300 564 587, Lifeline 13 11 14, or WWILD – 07- 3262 9877.
- Do not take over and tell them what to do – give them information and choices.
- Do not make promises you can’t necessarily keep, like that it will all be okay or that the perpetrator will never hurt them again.
- Talk to them about seeing a lawyer and get legal advice, so that they know what legal options are open to them, this is a good first step to take.
- They may want to go and make a statement to the police – it is their choice.
- Do not take over or speak for them – let them say what has happened in their words.
- Information needs to be given in a way that they understand by police and lawyers. Help them to understand what is going on.
WWILD provides free or affordable education and training on supporting people with intellectual disabilities in the justice system – Contact Us to inquire.