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This content originally appeared in our newsletter between April and May 2014 and reflected our views at the time. Caada is the previous name of SafeLives.

To encourage a young person to share details about their personal life and the abuse they are experiencing, you first need to build a relationship with them, explains Jill Prodenchuk, Senior Regional Development Officer at Caada for the Young People's Programme.

Creating a suitable environment for disclosure

  • Remember that it may take a few meetings before you build a relationship with the young person and they open up.
  • Always try to use a familiar location where the young person will feel comfortable opening up to you, taking into account any safety concerns. For example, if you are meeting a young person at school, make sure that their partner does not attend the same school or that your meeting can be disguised as something else so that it doesn't cause suspicion.

Useful resources

Discussing healthy relationships

  • Start the conversation by discussing confidentiality. You should be clear that, in most cases, the experience of relationship abuse by a young person will be a safeguarding issue and will require a referral to the safeguarding children team. This will create transparency and clarity for the young person about how and when the information they disclose might be used and shared and it will prevent them from feeling betrayed. It's important to handle this carefully, so that the young person doesn't shut down and disengage. A practical and genuine approach will be most effective. You may wish to use words such as: If we talk about things that concern me, I will need to tell other agencies so that we can help keep you safe. How do you feel about that?
  • Young people may not be aware they are in an abusive relationship. Have a conversation about what a healthy relationship is, and then ask the young person questions such as: How do you think your relationship compares to this? Where is it similar or dissimilar?
  • Use tools to help you guide the conversation, such as the Teen Power and Control Wheel which gives a thorough list of example abusive behaviours.
  • You could discuss the young person's ideal relationship and encourage them to think about how their current relationship compares to this. For example: Describe to me what your perfect boyfriend/girlfriend would be like . Following this, ask: Is (name of partner) anything like this?
  • View an online video and encourage the young person to spot the signs of abuse, or use an online quiz and discuss the results. See links below for examples.
  • Don't be afraid to challenge young people if their understanding of what a healthy relationship is makes them unsafe.

Useful resources

  • Download the Teen Power and Control Wheel, a visual display of different types of abuse that occur in abusive relationships, developed by the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence.
  • Access resources including videos, quizzes and information on what abuse at the This is Abuse' website or visit The Hideout website for more resources on how to help young people understand domestic abuse and what to do if it is happening to them.

Identifying risk

  • Use the Young People's Version of CAADA-DASH Risk Identification Checklist which will guide you through a conversation with the young person to identify the levels of risk they face.
  • The outcome of the Checklist can be used to highlight to the young person that they are in an abusive relationship. It is important that this is handled in a sensitive manner. Revealing to a young person that they are at high risk of serious harm or homicide may well be frightening and overwhelming. State what your concerns are exactly by using the answers the young person gave to you and by explaining your professional reasoning/judgement.
  • Explain to the young person what the next steps are to be, eg risk management; safety plans; referrals to children's safeguarding teams and a Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference (Marac). In every case that is referred to a Marac, a referral to children's social care should also be made.

Useful resources

  • Access the Young People's Version of CAADA-DASH Risk Identification Checklist.
  • Read the accompanying Frequently Asked Questions.
  • Access the Young People's Programme care pathway and the accompanying guidance.

We would also like to include special thanks to Young People's Violence Advisors: Shirin Taherzadeh and Amy Byrum for their input in composing this guidance.