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IICSA published its final Report in October 2022. This website was last updated in January 2023.

IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

The Report of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Final report

H.5: “I just wanted some support – I had nothing”

16. Getting access to the right help was likened to a “nightmare merry-go-round” for many victims and survivors of child sexual abuse.[1] Confusion about access routes and referral processes was mentioned frequently. Victims and survivors remembered how, as children, professionals themselves did not know how to get them help. Some also described a “fight” to access services as an adult:

The impression that I got was that there were some resources out there but you had to [be] prepared to fight tooth and nail for them. And for a person who is actually genuinely and consistently struggling, that’s nearly impossible to get to.[2]

Truth Project participant

17. Some victims and survivors, including children, said that they were turned away from statutory support services because they did not qualify for help. Often victims and survivors said that services would not provide support unless they met certain criteria. One Forum member said that they felt:

One needs to be at the point of wanting to end one’s life before there can be a meaningful intervention from mental health services.[3]

Member of the Victims and Survivors Forum

18. It was particularly common to hear that children who had been sexually abused did not meet the criteria for statutory mental health support. Children also felt that, in effect, they had to be suicidal or thinking of harming themselves to receive help. One young victim and survivor described the desperation that this generated: “I was thinking about cutting myself or jumping out of a window to get any help”.[4]

19. When victims and survivors did qualify for support services, they often faced a long wait before they could access that support. It was common to hear that victims and survivors waited for months, but some waited much longer: AR-A13 was on a waiting list for three years to receive counselling.[5] Accessing support was described as a ‘postcode lottery’ for both child and adult victims and survivors. One young victim and survivor said that she had had to travel a long way from home for counselling, which increased her distress.[6]

20. Being unable to access support when it was needed left many in emotional distress. Susan was “desperate” when she sought help but “the NHS wait was too long” so instead her GP signposted her towards a private counsellor.[7] Ruth described how she “felt almost at boiling point” but still had to wait months to be referred for counselling. When support came, she felt it was “too little, too late”.[8] Others were never able to access help. Edna said: “I was waiting and waiting and waiting … I just got lost off the system … I didn’t try again”.[9]

21. Some victims and survivors said that they struggled to access support services because they were not accessible for those with disabilities. Carolina, who is deaf, said that there was inadequate provision of support services for deaf children who have been sexually abused.[10] Victims and survivors with physical disabilities sometimes said they experienced difficulties when trying to access specialist voluntary sector services.

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