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It's our moral duty to find the money to support survivors of child sexual abuse

Sarah Champion MP on the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA)

This week, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) published accounts of victims and survivors. Their experiences allow us an important opportunity to recognise the abuse many have suffered, and to highlight the urgent need for properly funded services for all survivors of sexual abuse.

The IICSA report details the survivors’ recommendations on the support they need. We hear from Juliet, who coped with the sexual abuse from the married man she was babysitting for by using alcohol and drugs. Juliet has been able to stay strong and positive by attending therapy.

Clive was forced to put a stranger’s penis in his mouth in a public toilet as a boy. He tells us that child victims and survivors need help in building resilience so that they can cope with trauma such an incident brings throughout their lives. Clive believes parents of victims also need education to understand the impact abuse can have on a child’s behaviour.

Denise, who was regularly anally raped by her mother’s partner and became very disruptive at school, argues that professionals should be better trained in identifying indicators of sexual abuse in children and teenagers, and that adult survivors should be able to access therapy.

Across the country, support services for victims and survivors are struggling to keep up with demand. In my constituency the situation is no different, a recent Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council (RMBC) report found the support currently in place for victims and survivors is failing to keep up. Rotherham Abuse and Counselling Service alone has a waiting list of 238 and is receiving 60 new referrals a month.

RMBC should be commended for realising that current arrangements aren’t working and proactively trying to raise the issue.

Budgets across the country are stretched due to massive cuts in government funding. Without a significant financial uplift, services simply cannot be commissioned to meet the needs of survivors. 

I am calling on the Government to make a cross-departmental commitment to funding services that meet the needs of victims and survivors (also a recommendation of the IICSA Interim Report, published in April 2018). We need to see Government departments, local authorities and the voluntary sector working to a unified plan that is centred on the needs of victims and survivors.

Investing in support services at the point of disclosure makes long term sense. We know that victims of child sexual abuse are more likely to develop mental health issues, experience intimate partner violence or misuse substances later in life. By properly funding services and providing effective interventions when someone needs help, we are less likely to need to spend on long term social care, health and policing further down the line.

One in twenty children in the UK will experience child sexual abuse. On average, in every primary school class, there is a Clive or a Denise. It is our moral duty to ensure that no survivor is turned away from a service they need because government cannot find the money.

The National Action Plan for Dare2Care - an initiative that aims to prevent child abuse and challenge the normalisation of violence in young people’s relationships was launched on 1st November 2016 by Sarah Champion MP. To find out more, please visit: Twitter: @dare2careuk