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Focus on survivors report

Focus on Survivors: Identifying barriers to accessing support for those who have experienced childhood sexual abuse

University Campus Suffolk and Suffolk charity Survivors in Transition present findings from important new research, Focus on Survivors. The study is based on a large scale, national questionnaire with adults who were sexually abused as children about their experiences of services.

Key findings include:

  • New insights into the nature of typical childhood sexual abuse in the UK. 70% of abuse happens within families. 51% of survivors were abused by more than one person. The focus of high profile cases (e.g. the Governments independent inquiry, the Jimmy Savile scandal and the Rotherham inquiry) is on less typical examples of abuse. This risks skewing strategic responses to sex abuse in the UK.
  • Services need to be more vigilant in identifying whether service users have experienced abuse. Only 20% of survivors disclosed because they were asked in most cases, in order to make disclosures, survivors had to bring up the subject themselves. Disclosing is traumatic for survivors and they do not receive the help they need for an average of 12 years after disclosing.
  • Poor experience of one service can put survivors off from getting the help they need from other services for many years. Survivors were least satisfied with social services and A&E and hospital services. Less than half of survivors felt that they had been listened to, believed or respected by these services.
  • There is a sharp distinction in service satisfaction: survivors were less satisfied with statutory services and more satisfied with voluntary sector services. Over 80% said that they had a good service from voluntary sector counselling. To build on strengths, voluntary sector organisations need to have the lead role in future strategies to support survivors of childhood sexual abuse.

Professor Noel Smith commented: This is one of the biggest surveys of survivors there has ever been and it makes a major leap forward to addressing the striking lack of robust research there is in this field. The findings are important and disturbing. They highlight both the sustained duration over which children are typically sexually abused and the lifelong impact of that abuse. As a society we clearly need to be more strategic in tackling sexual abuse and we are not doing enough to support survivors of abuse.

University Campus Suffolk and Survivors in Transition would like to thank all those who took part in the survey.

See the full report here

View the Executive Summary here

For further details about the research please contact Professor Noel Smith