How to communicate
Our research on teen dating violence shows that young people experiencing abuse in their relationship are very likely to confide in their friend, their parents or someone else they trust.
Therefore we’ve deduced the importance of knowing what can you do if someone like that confides in you. It’s crucial to know what to say and how to react since this topic is very fragile and intimate. It might influence how the situation positively or negatively.
The following are some suggestions on how to sensitively talk with young people confiding in those they trust about violence or abuse in their relationship:
- Firstly, it is most important to support the person and let them know that they are not alone in this. Very likely it wasn’t easy for the person to discuss the subject, so it is also suitable to let them know that you appreciate that they trust you and that they are very brave to talk about that. Let them clearly know that they deserve the help and that you are there for them.
- Secondly, the victims/survivors of violence must not be pushed into any decisions or steps; they need their own pace in which to make decisions. This also depends on the context. There are some situations in which you are obliged to inform the police even if the person confiding in you objects (f.e. child abuse). There can be other situations in which you should strongly suggest that the person calls the police or leaves the relationship (if they are in immediate danger). Outside of these specific situations we recommend expressing empathy, to let them know it wasn’t their fault and what happened is the perpetrator´s responsibility.
You can say:
- “What happened is not your fault.”
- “You are very strong that you told me”
- “How can I help you?”
- “You are not alone in this”
- “I am here for you”
- “Are you safe now?”
- Another third option is to offer a security plan. A security plan is the specific plan of steps in which that particular person, based on their context, may increase their safety when in an abusive relationship or when leaving that relationship. The safety plan can include: planning the agreed upon signal with a trusted person to let them know about the conflict or a danger in the relationship, this way they can help or call the police; the planning what will be the safe space where they can go in case of argument or conflict; reminding them to have the phone with them all the time, and to be ready to call the police if in danger; if breaking up then helping to plan that so the safety is increased; for example by breaking up via phone or planning how they can avoid meeting the abuser on the bus (f.e. when attending the same school), etc..
- Fourthly, it is advisable to offer that you will accompany them to the helpful services:
- To parents in whom they can confide.
- To a school psychologist.
- To the Victim Supporting Organization
- D: You can help them write to or call emergency line