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Support services for victims and survivors of child sexual abuse

Summary

We wanted to find out about victims and survivors’ experiences of support services including: what services people accessed; why they would/would not access them; what made accessing easier; and what barriers people might face.

  • We commissioned Broome|Gekoski in collaboration with the University of Hertfordshire to carry out research into the support services experiences of over 180 victims and survivors.
  • The Support services for victims and survivors of child sexual abuse report was published in August 2020.
  • The Inquiry held a virtual research event which included questions about the research submitted by members of the Victims and Survivors Forum.

Key Themes

  • Support services
  • Child sexual abuse

Background

  • This report defined support services as ‘any service, organisation or intervention that provides support, advice or treatment to victims, survivors and their families to reduce the impact of having experienced child sexual abuse’. 

  • It explored three broad forms of services: justice, recovery, and health.

  • There was little previous research in this area. Existing research often relied on data provided through particular support services which did not give a clear picture of the issues.

What we have learned

The research comprised:

  • A quantitative online survey of 181 victims and survivors, including those who had and had not accessed support.

  • 24 qualitative in-depth interviews.

The research found:

  • Most victims and survivors have not accessed support services.

  • Victims and survivors who access support take a long time to do so and rate them as mediocre.

  • The most highly rated forms of support across all services were those provided by voluntary sector specialist services.

  • Counselling provided through health services was considered the least helpful service overall by some respondents, and the most helpful service overall by some other respondents.

  • Victims and survivors stressed the importance of being heard, listened to, understood, believed, and not judged, by caring and empathetic professionals.

  • The vast majority of victims and survivors reported at least one barrier to support.

  • A key personal issue or reason for not accessing support was victims and survivors not feeling they needed it.

  • A substantial minority of victims and survivors reported having unmet needs.

  • Significant relationships were found between the views and experiences of victims and survivors of child sexual abuse and their demographic characteristics and the type of child sexual abuse experienced.

Implications for the work of the Inquiry

The findings of the research contribute to the Inquiry’s understanding of the impacts of child sexual abuse, and victims and survivors’ pathways to coping and recovery.

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