With more news concerning abusive relationships, you may find students coming to you for help with their situation. This is a guide not only for how to help these students, but also to understand the prevalence and dynamics of abuse.
What can I do if a student comes to me regarding abuse, either with themselves or in their homes?
You are a mandatory reporter of child abuse, meaning if a child is being abused, you are legally obligated to notify child protective services. However, if the abuse is in the home but not directed toward the child, the child is over 18, or the student comes to you for advice or to get help for a friend, there are certain things you can do.
First of all, BELIEVE THEM. This is the most important thing. Many people do not come forward with abuse that has taken place because they are afraid people won’t believe them. In fact, abuse is the most underreported crime in the United States and false reports are rare.
Secondly, DON’T BLAME THEM. One reason people don’t come forward with abuse reports is that they think they will be blamed for the abuse. Tell the student: “It’s not your fault; you don’t deserve to be treated like that.”
Thirdly, ask the student what you can do for them. If they just need someone to talk to, you can play that role. However, be sure to let them know their options so they can make an informed decision about what to do next. Some options for further information and confidential help in Gallatin County are: HAVEN (for domestic and dating violence) 586-4111 and The Sexual Assault Counseling Center, 586-3333.
Lastly, support any decision they make, even if you do not personally think it wise. Many abused people go back to their abusers for various reasons, not because they like to be hurt. The more support they have from people, including teachers, the more likely it is that they will gain the strength to leave an abusive relationship.
If a student comes to you and says they are worried that they are being abusive, you can do many of the same things. Strongly encourage them to get help and reiterate that they have the ability to change their behavior, no matter their past or family history.
If you are approached by a student or hear about a situation that you are unsure about, you are also welcome to call HAVEN confidentially at 586-4111 to get advice and guidance.
Thank you for your willingness to be a supportive source of information and help for students. It makes all the difference.