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. A person will tell the people they trust.
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?
If someone reports a sexual assault they may need to be supported to go to a sexual assault service at a hospital to be checked for physical injuries or sexual health issues. 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.
If the person has been sexually assaulted recently or in the past and would like assistance, you can contact any of the following for support:
- Contact your GP or 13 Health on ph: 13 43 25 84 for local hospital information.
- Queensland Police 000 for emergencies, for non-emergency contact Policelink 131 444 or Crime Stoppers 1800 333 000
- Statewide Sexual Assault Helpline 1800 010 120
- 1800 Respect 1800 737 732, 24 hour sexual assault and domestic violence support
- DV Connect 1800 811 811
What do I do when they tell me:
- Tell them that you are glad they told you, and it was the right thing to do. It will re-traumatise the person if you question their story or tell them they are wrong.
- 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 to whom they have disclosed, you could be considered to be a witness by police if it proceeds to a legal case. Please note the date, time and place of the conversation, and don’t write any interpretation of what they have said, only their words and any gestures or signs they may have given.
Provide emotional support
- Offer them comfort and emotional support, reassurance, acknowledge how difficult it is, and provide them with some information about victims support services – Ph: 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.
- If recent sexual assault, talk to them about going to the local doctor or hospital to be checked over by a doctor and make sure they have no internal injuries or sexual health issues.
- They may want to go and make a statement to the police – it is their choice. Make sure someone who with whom they feel safe and knows them well goes with them.
- 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, particularly in cases of domestic or family violence.
- 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.
Police Reporting Options
- Contact your local police station by ringing Police link 131444 or look on the QPS website. Contact the station first, identify that the person you are assisting has a disability as they should do a video recorded interview and some information about what you would like to report to them. They will tell you what are the next steps. Its important that the person has someone to go with them for the interview who isn’t connected to the incident in anyway or was not the first or second point of disclosure. You can contact WWILD for that support if its needed.
- Alternate Reporting Options are available if the person wants to report it but is worried or nervous, or would like to remain anonymous. They can remain anonymous if they are older than 18 years old. For further information, please go to this link. https://www.police.qld.gov.au/units/victims-of-crime/support-for-victims-of-crime/reporting-a-sexual-assault
WWILD provides free or affordable education and training on supporting people with intellectual disabilities in the justice system – Contact Us to inquire.