It continues to be the case that far more children are being sexually abused in England and Wales than are identified or safeguarded. Half a million children are estimated to experience some form of sexual abuse each year, yet research indicates only around one in eight cases of child sexual abuse ever reach statutory services’ attention
Both research and practice show that it can take years for a child to get to the point where they feel able to tell someone. Sadly, often the younger the child is when the abuse starts, the longer it can take for it to be uncovered. We cannot forget that there are many barriers to children telling adults about harm and they may not recognise what is happening to them is abuse. It is vital that anyone who works with children knows how to recognise what is happening and understands how to help the child to have that conversation.
Communicating with children: A guide for those working with children who have or may have been sexually abused
In this new guide we aim to give all people working with children guidance in talking about child sexual abuse, explaining what may be going on for children when they are being sexually abused; what prevents them from talking about their abuse; and what professionals can do to help children speak about what is happening. It brings together research, practice guidance, and expert input – including from survivors of abuse - to help give professionals the knowledge and confidence to act.
Children will speak to the adults that they know and trust the most, not necessarily those in specific safeguarding roles, and it’s therefore vital that all professionals are able to have that initial conversation. Child sexual abuse can feel difficult and complex, but with support and guidance all professionals working with children do have the skills to do this.