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Working with young victims of crime

Children and young people are disproportionately more likely to be victims of crime, particularly the most serious crime. They often experience these crimes in their homes, schools and communities, in places and sometimes by people that should keep them safe. Therefore, it is highly likely that children you work with may be affected by crime or are at high risk of becoming victims of crime, particularly in relation to:

  • child sexual exploitation
  • child abuse
  • violent crime
  • gang-related crime
  • domestic abuse
  • robbery / theft

Last year alone, the number of child victims of serious crime, abuse or neglect would fill 3,300 classrooms. The Crime Survey for England and Wales identified in 2014 that while only 15% of children report crime to the police, most will report to a teacher or trusted professional, so it’s important that you feel equipped to support a child who discloses that they are a victim of crime.

Identifying warning signs

Often if children become victims of crime, even if they don’t realise they are a victim, there can be tell-tale signs. Not all young people will react in the same way, and victims and witnesses of crime of all ages may go through different emotions, from shock and anger to denial and depression. You may notice they have trouble sleeping, lose their appetite, feel scared or have panic attacks. 

Use our checklist ‘Identifying changes in children’ to recognise some of the main warning signs to watch out for. This list does not necessarily mean that the child or young person is a victim or witness of crime - there may be other reasons for a change in their behaviour - but it is a good guide to highlight that they may need some support or help. Email us at youandco@victimsupport.org.uk to get a copy of the guide.

Talking to a child

There are some strategies that will help you when thinking about talking to a child about any concerns you might have.

Know the best time to talk to the child

Don’t highlight the need to talk to the child in front of others. Find a suitable time to pull the child aside without drawing attention. Think about the child and when they are more likely to talk – is it in the morning or afternoon?

Think about the best place to talk

Let them have space to think and time to talk

Ask the child if anything is happening that is worrying them

Consider using activities to get the conversation started

Don’t rush them: let them talk in their own words

Maintain eye contact so they know you are listening

Listen properly to what they are telling you

Try not to react, keep your face neutral

Let them know that telling you was a really brave thing to do and took a lot of courage

Don’t judge them

Ask them how you can help

Reassure them

Safeguard them

Source help

Keep in contact with the child

  • Useful resources

    Resources to help you support young people affected by crime.

  • You & Co

    Help and support for young people experiencing crime.

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