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An employee / co-worker has just disclosed they experienced historic abuse, what should I do?

An employee / co-worker has just disclosed they experienced historic abuse, what should I do?

If an employee / co-worker discloses historic abuse it is important for them to know they are not alone.

There are a number of organisations which can help to support them and offer guidance about options and specialist services.

Many adults are suffering as a result of abuse they experienced as a child and it is not unusual for someone to disclose this to a co-worker or manager in work.

Your colleague may be questioning what happened to them and comparing it to stories in the media. They may feel a number of conflicting emotions and may be struggling to come to terms with things. They may have told people in the past or they may have kept what happened a secret. Whatever their situation, there are specialist organisations which are able to offer advice and support now.

It may be tempting to ask them lots of questions or encourage them to talk to you about what happened. This is not necessarily a good idea, particularly if they have never told anyone before.

While you may worry about doing or saying the wrong thing it is important to reassure your colleague that, whatever has happened to them, you believe what they are saying and are there to support them and that you will help them to access the most appropriate support for their needs. When someone experiences sexual abuse the people they choose to talk to about it play a vital role. A supportive colleague can be an important source of support and assistance.

Your colleague may be having difficulties with their work as a result of how they are feeling. They may be distracted, stressed or distressed and they may have anxieties about how their employer will react to their disclosure. It is important to offer reassurance in order to reduce some of these worries.

It is possible that your colleague may require some time away from work for appointments and they can find it reassuring to know that they have their manager’s support. They may also be concerned about other colleagues finding out about what has happened and may require some reassurance about confidentiality.

Reporting to the Police

Your colleague may benefit from working with an Independent Sexual Violence Advocate (ISVA) if they would like to consider reporting what has happened to them to the police. ISVAs are specially trained and work independently from the police. ISVAs are able to provide practical and emotional support and will help to identify all of the options that are available.

An ISVA will never try to persuade your colleague to go to the police or do anything that they are not comfortable with. If your colleague does decide to report an ISVA can support them through that process. They will then provide support until the case has concluded and will make sure that your colleague is aware of all of the on-going support that is available.

Ongoing support

Many people find it helpful to talk about what has happened to them. Specialist counsellors can be a good source of support for anyone who experienced abuse as a child. Counselling can make it easier for your colleague to cope with what has happened to them. There are a number of different types of counselling and your colleague’s ISVA or GP may be able to help to determine which is right for them.

Looking after yourself

It is not easy to listen to someone talk about their experience of sexual abuse. Supporting someone through this difficult time can take its toll. It is important that you consider your own feelings and reactions. It may help for you to talk about how this has made you feel and you should make sure that you have time to relax and unwind to take care of yourself too.

For free and confidential advice and support contact the Live Fear Free Helpline on 0808 80 10 800.

Policies & Guidance

Find relevant guidance and information on the VAWDASV Act.

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About Live Fear Free

Live Fear Free is a Welsh Government website, providing information and advice for those suffering with violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence.

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