Posted: 11 September 2016

Securing therapeutic support for victims of sexual abuse

Along with thousands of our supporters, we believe that it’s incredibly important that children who’ve been exploited have access to mental health support.

The damaging consequences of child sexual abuse is becoming increasingly apparent, affecting children’s mental health and placing them at greater risk of going missing, misusing substances or offending. 

Sexual abuse and exploitation is commonly associated with post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression. Young people need access to timely and professional support to help them overcome trauma resulting from sexual abuse or exploitation and to rebuild their lives. But sadly we know that access to this type of support in England is very inconsistent and needs urgent action.

We are calling on the Chancellor to announce increased funding for these crucial services in the Budget.

Improving access to therapeutic support for vulnerable children

Too often, a child who has experienced abuse will not get access to mental health support unless, or until, they have a diagnosable condition – this is simply too late to prevent suffering. In many areas, long waiting times put off older teenagers whose lives may be volatile and the window of opportunity to engage with them may be very short.

Our Access Denied report found that access to therapeutic support for victims of sexual abuse or exploitation in particular is very patchy across England as local policies vary considerably from area to area. For example, only 14% of trusts have procedures in place to ensure priority access to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services for child victims of sexual abuse and exploitation.

The Government’s ‘Future in Mind’ report contains a recommendation for all children who have been sexually abused and/or exploited to receive a comprehensive specialist initial assessment and a referral to appropriate services providing evidence-based interventions according to their need. This can only be realised with better funding and improved access to services.

The availability of therapeutic services

Our practitioners report severe shortages of therapeutic support services for young people who have experienced abuse or display sexually harmful behaviour. In many areas, the lack of services has led to long waiting times putting off older vulnerable teenagers whose lives may be volatile.

Our Old Enough to Know Better report raised concerns about the lack of therapeutic support for young people who display sexually harmful behaviour. Our practitioners report an absence of clear referral pathways for young people to get assessment of their needs and to access therapeutic support to deal with their behaviour, or to help them recover from earlier abuse that was a contributory factor to the development of sexually harmful behaviours.

Strengthening the legal framework

As part of our Seriously Awkward campaign, we are asking MPs to help us secure changes to the Policing and Crime Bill to better protect vulnerable teenagers. One of our key priorities is to ensure better support for victims of sexual abuse, including support with their mental health, while their case is investigated and prosecuted to help them stay engaged and be part of the process.

The Budget presents an opportunity to increase funding for therapeutic services for children and young people who have been sexually abused to help them overcome their trauma without delay.


By Kadra Abdinasir - Policy team

Read more

Seriously Awkward: Protect older teenagers

Posted: 23 June 2015


Read more

Our work to tackle child sexual exploitation

Posted: 15 November 2010