Just 16% of survivors of child abuse feel needs met by mental health services

Fewer than one in five survivors of child sexual abuse feels their needs were met by NHS mental health services, a new report has found.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse called for the health service to become more “responsive” in light of the findings – particularly in areas where large-scale sexual abuse has occurred.

Survivors said mental health services were one of the most important forms of support, but just 16% told the inquiry that the NHS’s provision met their needs.

It found that survivors wait an average of 26 years to disclose abuse, with 90% finding that the abuse has negatively impacted their intimate relationships.

Nine in 10 said their mental health was affected by their experiences, while 81% reported that their family life had been negatively impacted by the abuse they suffered.

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Sarah Champion said the treatment of child sex abuse survivors is ‘morally wrong’ (Chris McAndrew/UK Parliament)

The APPG called on the Home Office to commission and publish research into the economic and social costs of child sexual abuse, and urged ministers to provide a cross-departmental fund to transform the Government’s response to abuse.

And it suggested the NHS considers ring-fenced funding to ensure Clinical Commissioning Groups commission specialist voluntary sector services to meet demand.

Labour’s Sarah Champion, who chairs the group, said the treatment of child sex abuse survivors is “morally wrong”.

She said: “I have spoken to hundreds of survivors of childhood sexual abuse. It is striking that almost all of them describe the way they are treated by the state as a secondary form of abuse.

“Who are we as a nation if we do not support victims of horrendous crime?

“It is an outrage that despite all the talk of action so many child sex abuse survivors are left to fend for themselves. This is morally wrong and makes no sense economically.

“This report gives concrete, cost-effective solutions to ministers. Victims and survivors of child abuse are fed up with warm words from Government, they now want change.

“Nearly 400 survivors have spoken. It’s time for the Government to show it’s listening and take action.”

The report used data from an online survey of 365 survivors, and 12 gave evidence in Parliament to the inquiry.

A Government spokesperson said: “Child sexual abuse is an abhorrent crime and today’s report lays bare the emotional and psychological scars it can leave on its victims.

“This Government is working to tackle child sexual abuse by bringing perpetrators to justice and ensuring victims receive the support they need.

“We are working across government and with the health and charitable sectors to ensure that victims of this dreadful crime receive the right emotional, medical and psychological support as they rebuild their lives.”

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