Mate Crime Spotting the Signs of Fake Friendship
• It Is subtle.
Any healthy friendship will have ‘give and take’ where people do favours for one another. We make allowances for our friends and tend to give them the benefit of the doubt. The victim might make excuses for certain behaviours, dismissing it as part and parcel of being someone’s friend.
• The victim might accept it.
Unpleasant and/or aggressive behavior in a relationship may be tolerated by the victim, if they want that person’s company regardless of outcome. Desperation for friendship could cause them to accept unfair treatment and they may feel a sense of guilt at the prospect of reporting them.
It is also important to acknowledge that people with special needs can also be perpetrators of mate crime, and they will benefit from input to understand the impact of their behavior.
Here is a suggestion of 10 potential warning signs of the possibility of mate crime that might be helpful.
- Does your child ever seem upset after being with their friend/s?
- Has your child been physically hurt by their friend/s?
- Has your child made reference to any name calling/teasing?
- Does your child seem under pressure?
- Does your child lend money to their friend/s but they don’t pay it back?
- Does your child let their friend/s take, use or damage their belongings?
- Does your child’s friend/s use their phone, or ask your child to use it to take photographs or send messages that they don’t want to?
- Does your child bring other people to where you live that they don’t know or didn’t invite?
- Alternatively, does your child only meet their friend/s alone?
- Is your child being encouraged to do things that are against the law?
It won’t be easy trying to explain that someone is “using” them. They may struggle to accept it when they have trusted someone who used the label of friendship falsely. It will also be a challenge not to go to the extreme and instill mistrust into children and young people with special needs, and then become suspicious and cynical. Genuine, agenda-free friendships are possible, we just need to be aware that abuse can take many forms and recognize the warning signs.
Kate Sarginson, has been a Special Needs teacher for 16 years. She has experience in specialist residential college, mainstream high school and independent boarding school. Her current role is Head of Learning Support at Sedbergh School, Cumbria, England.