I am worried about a friend or family member

Are you worried that forced marriage is happening to someone you care about?

There are ways you can help.

How do you know if there is a forced marriage?

It can be tricky to know if forced marriage is happening to someone you care about.

The person may find it hard to talk about what they are going through. Sometimes, they might not even realise they are in a forced marriage or being forced to marry. Many people don’t realise that forced marriage can happen without physical force or violence.

If something doesn’t look or feel right, you can contact us to get free and confidential advice.

Common signs of forced marriage

Your friend or family member may:

  • Suddenly announce they are getting married, especially to someone they haven’t met before

  • Feel pressured or guilt-tripped by their family into getting married

  • Be afraid of something bad happening if they don't get married, like someone getting hurt or their family being shamed

  • Be controlled or constantly watched by their family, like not being allowed to use their mobile phone or go out by themselves

  • Worry about going on an upcoming overseas trip, or not come back from an overseas trip

  • Not be allowed to make decisions about their own life and future.

Look out for any changes in how they act

These changes can be small and do not always point to a forced marriage, but they are important to keep in mind. Your friend or family member may:

  • Suddenly stop going to school, university or work

  • Do poorly at school, university or work

  • Not socialise or hang out with their friends

  • Become more quiet, distant, anxious, stressed and/or depressed

  • Feel hopeless or helpless about their future.

What can you do to help?

1. Listen and be respectful.

Listen to what your friend or family member tells you about their situation. Be respectful and don't judge what they say, even if you don’t understand it. They might come from a different culture or have a different relationship with their family and community, so they might not think and feel the same way as you do.

2. Support them and tell them they are not alone.

Your friend or family member may be feeling a lot of different emotions and pressures from many people around them. You might both feel scared or confused about what to do, and that is ok.

You don’t need to have all the answers. Just let your friend or family member know that you are there to support them, and they don’t have to go through this alone.

3. Tell your friend or family member about My Blue Sky.

My Blue Sky is a place for anyone to get free information and legal advice. You can share this website with your friend or family member and tell them about their rights. We have information for people in a forced marriage as well as people who are being forced to marry.

4. Keep yourself and your friend or family member safe.

Forced marriage can be very hard, and risky, to handle on your own. Before you do anything, make sure your actions will not put yourself or your friend or family member in danger.

Protect your friend or family member’s privacy and do not tell anyone else what they have told you. Do not get their family or community involved, as this may not be safe. Be careful about who you can trust.

If there is an emergency, or someone is hurt or in danger, call Triple Zero (000) right away.

Remember to look after your own mental health and well-being, and keep an eye on your friend or family member’s too. Click here for some useful tips or find a counselling service.

5. Help your friend or family member get professional support, if they want to.

If your friend or family member wants to get professional help, you can:

  • Go with them to see someone they trust (like a teacher)

  • Sit with them when they call a support service, or

  • Help them write an email to a support service.

If you are contacting a support service on behalf of your friend or family member, make sure you have gotten their informed consent first. This means they need to understand and agree to:

  • Which service you are contacting

  • Why and when you are contacting this service, and

  • What information you will be sharing with the service.

Do not push your friend or family member to do anything they don’t want to.

If they don’t want to get help, you cannot and should not force them. The best thing you can do is tell them their options, and let them know you are ready to support them if they change their mind.

Ready to take the next step?

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