“I need to know if this person is one of your staff!”.
Those are not words you ever really want to hear. Turns out, a lady had been hanging out in her territory, telling others that she goes around “helping victims” and had an office in my territory. People naturally assumed that meant she was a Victim Services employee, and in fact, worked for me.
Kind of clever really since she never came right out and said she *was* a VS employee but she certainly knew how to leave the right impression. That combined with a fake LinkedIn business profile, it didn’t take her long to find just the right victim for the purposes of manipulating, controlling, taking advantage and / or gathering information.
As much as my tree-hugging, do-gooder, heart wants to believe otherwise; there are people in this world who prey on others when they’re vulnerable. They seek out people who may be struggling, who are lonely or insecure, who may need a friend, who are trusting or maybe grew up being taught to believe people at face value and / or to be obedient, who may need support and /or are going through a difficult time; they look for nurturing types who need someone to take care of and for someone who is committed and will keep their word no matter what.
So in light of the fact that this happened very close to home, we thought it would be worthwhile to leave a list of tips on how to tell if someone is there to take advantage of you.
1. It’s all about the details. As our lovely lady friend above showed, she had some great answers, unless you were looking for details. She never said what exactly she did, or how she did it, or who she worked for, or where her office was located. She gave just enough for other people to make assumptions and go with those assumptions. The more detail you ask for, the easier it is to spot inconsistencies or something that seems “off”.
2. Give and take. Most healthy or helping relationships are based on a fairly equal balance of “give and take”. In a professional relationship, it’s not much different. Someone may be there to listen to you but they should also be there to answer questions and provide information and help you figure out what direction you wish to go next. In a domestic violent relationship, the abuser often only wants to talk about themselves. In a relationship where someone is trying to take advantage of you, they may continuously divert the conversation back to you – to help you. Helping professionals won’t talk about themselves but they will take turns in the conversation talking about the things that are important to you from their perspective. There should be a healthy level of balance.
3. Personal information. If the person helping you seems overly interested in many of the personal details of your life (where is your bank account, where are you moving next, who are your friends, where do you keep the spare key to your house, who else has access to your house, and so on), you may want to ask yourself why. Some friends know a lot about many things in our personal lives but that information is divulged over time and as the relationship develops – usually in a slow, mutual process. Your friend may know where you keep the spare key but you also have a spare key to his/her place and this came a year or two (or five or ten) into the relationship before you shared this little tidbit.
4. Dependency. It’s very common for someone who is there to take advantage of you to foster and encourage a sense of dependency (from you to them). Friends and helping professionals will absolutely help you with tasks and things you need and support you along the way. Someone whose intentions are maybe not as clear will often try to do these things for you and encourage you to rely on them versus do things for yourself.
If someone ever approaches you to state that they are there to help victims and / or to state they are from a Victim Services organization, be aware that in Leeds & Grenville they will always;
– have identification. Staff will have ID badges, business cards and may be wearing logo specific clothing (shirt, jacket etc); volunteers will have ID badges, logo specific clothing and printed information.
– be able to tell you where they work specifically, who their supervisor is and have a pamphlet or other written information showing a phone number to call
– a Victim Services staff or volunteer will never get offended if you question their credentials or ask them questions to verify they’re who they say they are.
Sometimes folks worry that they’re going to offend or upset others and hesitate to seek clarification. Never worry, because chances are the only ones who will ever get offended, are the ones you shouldn’t be trusting in the first place.