Safe From Harm #5:
Listen and take action
Have you ever been in a situation where someone told you in confidence that he or she had been abused? Many people feel this to be a difficult conversation, but it is easier if you have the correct tools with which to deal with it. In this module, we will present some thinking points.
When someone speaks to you in confidence, it means he or she trusts you and feels safe in your presence. Therefore, it is important that you listen to what he or she has to say. Do not betray his or her trust. In short, you must take the person seriously.
What to do?
Find a suitable place
If someone begins to tell you about his or her situation or a specific event, try to find a place where you can talk in private. It should be a place away from other people, but where you are still visible to at least one other adult and the other adult is visible to you. This will ensure your own protection from a possible accusation of abuse.
Stay calm and believe what you are being told
Try to stay calm during the conversation. You need not know immediately what to do, or how to act. Encourage the person to talk to you and tell you the whole story before you suggest any solutions.
Try to keep a neutral perspective while listening and try to view things from the another person‘s perspective.
Listen attentively, and show that you accept what the person is telling you. Try not to have any preconceptions about the individual or about what he or she is saying.
Do not express any doubt about what you hear. Attempting to find other explanations is a common tendency.
Do not judge
Let the person express his or her feelings, but try to stay as neutral as possible.
Stay calm and do not express strong emotions or show that you are upset about what you are hearing. How people offer comfort may differ, depending on the specific cultural context. However, the important thing is that the person knows that you are listening and can handle the situation.
Do not downplay the seriousness of what has happened to the Scout by saying things like “Well, it will pass”, in order to show sympathy. Do not trivialize what the person has just told you by saying something like “That wasn’t so bad at all.”
Encourage the person by asking careful questions. For example, “Can you tell me a bit more?” However, do not rush or force him or her.
Do not ask for too many details. Like “What time did it happen?” It is usually enough for you to know that something might have happened.
Remember what the other person says to you
Listen attentively and try to remember the exact words the person used to describe the situation.
Following the conversation, it is important that you write down what you heard, using the actual phrasing as much as possible. You may need to use this record later. Treat the information as confidential, sharing it only with the relevant people.
It is important that you make an effort to try to understand the situation that the other person is describing.
Repeat or rephrase what the person says to make sure you have understood and ask, “Have I understood you correctly?”
Do not make any promises
Do not promise to keep quiet or a quick resolution to the situation. However, you can say you will try to help.
Never promise to remain silent, since you do not know what the person is going to tell you. You may have to break your promise and the person may already mistrust adults.
Decide on the next step
At the end of the conversation, you must decide whether your talk was sufficient to resolve the situation, or whether you should forward the information to the Health and Safety Team at the Moot.
Should you judge the case to be urgent, escort the person to a Safety Steward or other member of the Health and Safety Team.
Part of your role as an IST, CMT, Tribe Advisor, or MPT is to take action when necessary. Some points to remember while listening and talking to a person in a difficult situation are:
- Find a suitable place.
- Believe what he or she tells you.
- Do not judge.
- Remember what the Scout says.
- Do not make any promises.
- Decide on the next step.