Why it's never too late for survivors of child sexual abuse to come forward

Des Mannion
Friday, November 24, 2017

Recent years have seen a series of child abuse scandals - depressingly similar stories in which survivors went for years without justice, either because they were not believed or because they did not feel able to speak out when the abuse was being inflicted on them.

What the appalling cases involving Jimmy Savile, Rolf Harris, Stuart Hall, abuse in football and many others have ensured is that the issue of child sexual abuse has never before had such a high profile or level of public understanding.

It also means that many more people are now reporting past offences committed against them with greater certainty that they will receive justice.

New figures recently obtained from the police by the NSPCC showed that more than 60,000 cases of non-recent sexual abuse against children have been recorded by police forces across the UK over the last four years - rising from 10,493 in 2013/14 to 20,410 in 2016/17.

Worrying as these findings are, it is reassuring to see that more and more survivors are being emboldened to come forward knowing they will be listened to and police will take action to bring the perpetrators to justice.

When considering these findings, it's also important to think about what support is available to survivors both as children and adults.

The NSPCC's ‘Letting the Future In' programme, which is delivered in 17 of our service centres, directly helps children aged four to 17 who have been sexually abused.

Through a programme of therapy, which takes place over a maximum of 24 sessions and usually takes up to a year to complete, the victims are helped to move on from what has happened to them.

Child service practitioners agree aims for the work with each individual, which can include building self-esteem, reducing intrusive thoughts, nightmares, panic attacks, suicidal thoughts, emotional regulation, anger and anxiety. The programme then makes use of a range of methods to undertake the therapeutic work, which includes non-directive play, cognitive behavioural therapy, trauma focussed work and creative art interventions.

When it comes to survivors speaking out in adulthood, the National Association of People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC) has trained staff who can speak with survivors of childhood abuse and explore the options available to them such as support groups and counselling.

NAPAC also supports the family and friends of people who are helping someone who was abused.

This support is pivotal to providing the reassurance to survivors of child sexual abuse that help is available, that they won't have to struggle alone and that there is hope for the future.

All of these support services should help encourage victims to have the confidence to come forward and report to police what happened to them.

It shouldn't matter whether the sexual abuse happened a year ago or 50 years ago, it is never too late to report it.

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