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All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Issey was sexually abused by an adult male relative.

When her family reported the abuse to social services, they were advised not to go to the police.

Issey was staying at her uncle and aunt’s home when she was six years old. She was sleeping in the same bedroom as her male cousin who was about the same age. 

An adult came into the room and she pretended to be asleep. This person ‘touched’ her. It was only when they were leaving the room and Issey turned over that she saw it was her uncle. 

Issey remembers that she thought what had happened ‘didn’t feel right’, but she was so young that she didn’t understand what her uncle had done. 

A few weeks after the abuse occurred, Issey told her older sister about it. Her sister said they should tell their mum. Issey remembers her mum’s expression changing; she now thinks she was trying not to appear shocked. 

Her father was told, and Issey says it was at this point she realised what had happened was serious. 

Issey says her parents believed what she had told them and they contacted social services. They were advised not to contact the police. 

The reasons that social services gave for this was that the abuse had taken place several weeks previously, and there would be little in the way of physical evidence for the police to investigate. They added the opinion that the investigation process would probably be more harmful to Issey than the trauma of the abuse. 

Issey now knows that social services did check that she would not be at risk from her uncle again, and her parents said she would not have any more contact with him.

When her parents told Issey’s aunt about the incident, she didn’t believe them. The aunt confronted her husband, who denied it. He was not investigated about the abuse. 

Issey says that her parents made it clear to her that she should not feel ashamed about this abuse. She thinks they tried to help her overcome her fear of her uncle and give her ‘some power back’. 

She says her family did not really discuss the abuse and she thinks it would have helped to have been encouraged to talk more about it with her parents. On one occasion she recalls her parents saying the abuse ‘could have been much worse’. They later apologised for this and they did offer to get some counselling for her. 

There have been family events where Issey has seen her uncle and Issey finds this very difficult. She feels her parents don’t understand the impact of the abuse on her. She thinks parents of children who have been abused should be given support and information to guide them on how to deal with their child’s abuse.

Issey thinks that social services should not have given the reasons they did to discourage her parents from reporting the abuse. She says there should be a way to investigate child sexual abuse without causing further trauma. 

However, she says that now she ‘doesn’t see the point’ in pursuing an investigation or  prosecution of her uncle, as she thinks it would only cause more harm to the family. 

Issey considers that the most important thing for her to do is take measures to protect herself from seeing her uncle. ‘You shouldn’t be ashamed, you can’t control what people do’ she says.

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