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Making Noise: Children’s voices for positive change after sexual abuse

Children’s experiences of help-seeking and support after sexual abuse in the family environment

1. This study was commissioned by the Children’s Commissioner for England and carried out in 2015/16 by staff from the International Centre: Researching Child Sexual Exploitation, Violence and Trafficking, in partnership with the NSPCC. It sought to elicit children and young people’s views and experiences of help-seeking and support after child sexual abuse (CSA) in the family environment.

2. The title, and spirit, of the research – ‘Making Noise: children’s voices for positive change after sexual abuse’ – was determined with our Young People’s Advisory Group, who have played a critical role throughout the work. It represents our efforts to not only generate new research knowledge, but to simultaneously demonstrate the capacity of children and young people to contribute to enhanced responses to these issues and the importance of challenging the cultures of silence in which abuse and impunity flourish.

3. The research comprised 53 in-depth qualitative interviews with children aged 6 to 19 who were receiving support for experiences of CSA in the family environment. All interviewees were accessed through one of 15 third-sector therapeutic services from across England. This data was supplemented with focus groups (30 participants) and survey data (75 respondents) with more generic cohorts of young people exploring possible barriers to disclosure and service access.

4. The research sought to respond to a recognised gap in evidence from the perspectives of children and young people affected by CSA in the family environment. To our knowledge this study represents data from the largest sample of children and young people in a qualitative study on this issue.

5. The research aims were to improve understanding of participants’ experiences of: recognition, identification and disclosure of CSA in the family environment help-seeking and support contact with services as a result of reporting/identification of CSA care systems, and criminal justice procedures and to ascertain children and young people’s views on how such processes could be improved.