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If you think a friend is being abused or is at risk of harm, there is a lot you can do to help them. You should encourage them to talk about it, either to you or to a trained counsellor, and if possible, report the abuse.

If you are being abused emotionally, physically or sexually, it is important to tell someone. There is no shame in asking for help.

Understanding risk of harm and abuse

What is risk of harm

You don't need to be sure that someone is being abused in order to make a report. It's enough to suspect that they may be “at risk of harm”, which means at risk of future abuse or neglect. This could mean that they are exposed to domestic violence, or their physical, psychological or medical needs are not being met.

What is abuse

Violence, neglect, emotional or sexual assault is called “abuse” when it is done by someone who should be caring for the victim. For young people, this could be a family member, relative, employer or adult they trust.

The term “child abuse” applies to children and young people under the age of 16.

Check out these websites to find information about types of violence and abuse and what steps to take to get support:

Understand different types of violence, how to spot an abusive relationship and where you can get help

Confidential information, counselling and support available 24 hours
1800 737 732

NSW Rape Crisis Centre
24/7 telephone and online crisis counselling service for men and women in NSW who have experienced or are at risk of sexual assault and their non offending supporters

What's OK at home?
Lots of resources to help you understand what family violence is, why it happens, how to recognise it and how to help others who are experiencing it

How to report abuse

If you suspect a friend is being abused, you can call or refer the person to:

Child Protection Helpline
13 21 11

for the cost of a local call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The helpline will answer any questions and tell you what will happen next. Family and Community Services won’t tell anyone who reported the abuse to us. You don’t have to tell us your name if you don’t want to.

What happens when you make a report

When you tell us about abuse, our staff will ask you for more information to help them find out about the risk of harm to the young person involved.

If the young person is at risk of harm, we work with them and their family to make sure they are safe.

If we think they're in immediate danger, we will move them to a safe place.

We may also work with other organisations and professionals to make sure the young person and their families can access help and support.

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Last updated: 20 Mar 2023