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Supporting children and young people

A child or a young person who has fallen victim for a crime needs support from their loved ones. For example parents/custodians, friends and professionals can support the victim. The most important thing is that the victim is not left alone and that he/she gets the support he/she needs in the situation.

The support of parents/custodians

When children or young people tell their parents/custodians about their experience it is good to emphasize the following things:

  • Thank him/her for telling you
  • Remind him/her that it is always ok to talk about difficult things
  • Give him/her time to tell and stay calm
  • Listen and give him/her the opportunity to discuss
  • Do not blame, suspect or diminish him/her
  • Tell him/her that he/she is not guilty for what happened
  • Emphasize the offender’s responsibility for the crime
  • Take the story seriously
  • Tell him/her that the reactions are normal
  • Offer the safe presence of an adult
  • Continue the normal everyday life
  • Take care of the basic needs, for example, eating and sleeping
  • Give him/her hope that he/she will cope with the situation

It is important that children and young people feel that they are appreciated the way they are. The feeling of being precious and accepted strengthens their self-esteem and helps them to cope in difficult situations. Children and young people need support from the adults for developing and maintaining the self-esteem and the self-respect. They also need knowledge and skills to help them cope with the situation.

It is shocking and emotionally stressful for parents/custodians when their children have fallen victims to a crime. The criminal experiences of children or young people can arouse many kinds of emotions in adults, like shame, guilt and anxiety. Emotions of guilt can arise from not being able to protect the child. It is good to remember that parents/custodians cannot always prevent crimes. It is important that also the parents/custodians get support for coping with the crisis. This way they can best help their child to recover from the criminal experience.

The support of a friend

A friend is often the first person you tell about shocking experiences and you look for help from the friend. A good friend listens, shows compassion and gives support in difficult situations. It is also normal that the victim of the crime does not have the strength to keep in touch with his/her friends and wants to be alone.

  • Thank him/her for telling you
  • Remind him/her that it is always ok to talk about difficult things with friends
  • Listen to your friend and give him/her the opportunity to discuss
  • Do not blame, suspect or diminish him/her
  • Tell him/her that he/she is not guilty for what happened
  • Take the story seriously
  • Do not tell your other friends what your friend has told you in confidence
  • Offer your friend a safe presence of a friend
  • Tell a trusted adult about what happened together with your friend
  • Get help even if you are unsure if it is a crime
  • Continue the normal everyday life and do things that are important to you together
  • Give your friend hope that he/she will cope with the situation

Your friend may want to talk repeatedly about the situation. Even if it feels stressful you should listen to the story over and over again, it can be very important for your friend. By telling you, your friend also shows that he/she thinks that you understand the situation. However, do not be offended if your friend does not want to tell you everything that happened or does not tell you anything. It is good to encourage the victim to tell a trusted adult or, for example, to contact the Victim Support Finland.

Hearing a shocking experience as a friend can also affect your well-being by causing similar emotional reactions as the victim. Take care of yourself and do not carry too much burden as a friend. If your friends story shocks or scares you, you can also get help for yourself by talking to a trusted adult or by contacting the Victim Support Finland.

The support of a professional

When children or young people tell a professional about their experience it is good to emphasize the following things:

  • Thank him/her for telling you
  • Remind him/her that it is always ok to talk about difficult things
  • Give him/her time to tell and stay calm
  • Listen and give him/her the opportunity to discuss
  • Do not blame, suspect or diminish him/her
  • Tell him/her that he/she is not guilty for what happened
  • Emphasize the offender’s responsibility for the crime
  • Take the story seriously
  • Tell him/her that the reactions are normal
  • Offer the safe presence of an adult
  • Consider telling the parents/custodians together
  • Give him/her hope that he/she will cope with the situation
  • Think about where he/she could get help in the situation

In case of a serious crime, take the following into account:

  • Exact details are not needed at this stage
  • It is good to leave the defining questions to the police
  • Don’t lead the story: ”Did he do something really bad to you?”
  • Ask open questions: ”What happened to you?”
  • It is good to write down what the victim says
  • Remember your reporting obligation
  • If necessary, make a child welfare notification and a report to the police
  • Tell him/her about your reporting obligation

Professionals working with minors are obliged to make a child welfare notification and a report to the police if the situation requires. Children and young people need an adult who handles the situation and makes sure they get help. Children and young people may have difficulties in understanding the crime. An honest and confidential treatment of the child or the young person helps them to cope with the criminal experience. No special skills are required to give a genuine treatment and to show sympathy.

“Children and young people need an adult who handles the situation and makes sure they get help”

The treatment of victims of crime can arouse different emotions in the professional, like confusion, mistrust and uncertainty. The treatment of the victim can affect the employee both professionally and personally. It is important that the professional identifies these emotions and accepts and handles them to be able to treat the victim professionally.