Taking a professionally curious and respectfully uncertain approach will make you better placed to take appropriate and positive action to protect someone’s safety and welfare.
It will help you develop a better understanding of someone’s situation and take account of their personal circumstances and vulnerabilities when assessing your concerns. It will help you identify signs of exploitation where they exist and avoid overlooking them, attributing them to other causes, or mistaking them for the ‘expected’ behaviour of a particular person or group.
You can become more professionally curious and respectfully uncertain by following the points below:
1) Question why someone is behaving in a certain way. Consider what these behaviours could indicate.
2) Find out more about someone’s personal circumstances. Assess their behaviour in light of what you know about them and their situation.
3) Question the motives of anyone who is with the person. Why are they there? What is their relationship to the person? Do they appear controlling? Do they dislike leaving the person alone? Even if they appear kind and supportive, could this be a way of hiding their role in harming the person?
4) Recognise when someone is reluctant to provide a full or accurate account of events or is pretending to cooperate to avoid raising suspicions.
5) Think outside the box. Consider the person or situation from the viewpoint of other workers. What might they look out for and notice? What would they think about the situation?
6) Maintain an open mind. Avoid making assumptions, taking information at face value and jumping to conclusions. Take account of changing information and different perspectives. Consider if you need to adapt your views.
7) Ask questions and challenge what you believe to be untrue.
8) Notice if you or someone else starts to doubt that someone is a victim – consider the reasons for these doubts. Are they fair? It might be helpful to read more about how victims of exploitation are perceived.
9) Trust your instinct and raise concerns if something about someone’s behaviour or situation does not feel right.
10) Think vulnerability and exploitation – be actively aware of how anyone you come across may be vulnerable and could be experiencing exploitation.
11) Think and act outside of your immediate job role – take action to investigate and act on your concerns, even if this goes beyond the immediate remit of your role and responsibilities.
For example, a professionally curious health professional who is treating someone for physical injuries would also question why these injuries have been sustained and assess the person’s wider appearance and behaviour – do they seem distressed? Are they reluctant to say how they received their injuries? Do they seem to be hiding something? Is there anything about them that raises concerns or suspicions?
If you are concerned about someone, take action to find out more about their situation and protect their safety and wellbeing. The following pages provide information about how to do so: