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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What should I do if I know a friend who is being sexually abused?

    I know a friend of mine is being sexually abused by her boyfriend, but she made me swear not to tell anyone because she's afraid the boyfriend may become more violent. I know I should report it but now I'm also worried what may happen if I do. Help?
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    Mariela Occelli

    Clinical Psychologist, Psychologist

    Mariela Occelli is a Clinical Psychologist with well over 20 years experience in the assessment and treatment of clinical disorders. She has worked in private … View Profile

    The answer to this question is a little complex. If your friend is a minor, reporting it would mean that relevant authorities would have to investigate and act to protect her. They would not be able to act in the absence of evidence and if she refuses to disclose what is happening this may prove difficult. Whether your friend is a minor or an adult, I would encourage her to talk to her parents or any other family members who can step up to protect her and to support her in taking the steps necessary to establish safety, for example, ending the relaitonship, applying for an Apprehended Violence Order  to protect herself, seeking counselling to deal with the effects of the abuse, etc. Overall, the most important things is to reinforce to your friend that what is happening to her is not acceptable, it is not her fault, it is the opposite of love, and even though it may not be simple, she has the power to stop it and there are supports systems available for her. A useful resource: or 1800RESPECT is the link and phone number of the National Counselling Helpline which offers information, counselling and support for victims of sexual assault, domestic or family violence. The sexual assault liaison officer of the local police station can be a useful resource also.
    I hope this helps. 

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