Following on from the presentation of the research in to the impact of child sexual abuse (CSA) the IICSA held a panel discussion about support services available to adult victims, together with victim comments and stories of their experience of the same.
Highlights from this discussion were:
- Professor Noel Smith of the University of Suffolk provided a thought provoking overview of the work he is undertaking. He summarised that on average a victim will suffer seven years of abuse, and that there will be a 20 year gap between the abuse and the victim accessing services, with the victim accessing four or five different services over the 10 years post disclosure, necessitating long term planning. He highlighted research which indicated that when considering satisfaction, researchers asked victims to answer three questions; did the service provider believe the victim, did the service provider listen to the victim and did the victim feel respected, with positive responses correlating to satisfaction of the services provided. The research indicates that voluntary and community services where rated as having high satisfaction, and statutory services such as social services and hospitals, as having low satisfaction.
- The themes of training and communication were regularly raised by the panel and members of the public gallery, particularly with regard to adequate training of frontline healthcare staff (primarily GPs) in respect of sexual violence and a culture of passing victims which are considered too “complex”. During a discussion of examples where services “worked”, contributors stated that gold standard care was provided long term by professionals who understood them. Victims raised concerns about the efficacy of the standard 10 – 12 sessions of CBT and the six weeks offered in the SARC system, and advocated the use of non-time restricted sessions and a system where patients were not penalised or discharged from care due to non-attendance. Victims additionally raised concerns regarding the over reliance by GPs on medication rather than talking therapies.
- Oliver Chantler of the Samaritans raised concerns that charities and the voluntary sector were filling gaps left by traditional statutory services.
- Victims raised concerns regarding disclosure within the statutory sector as opposed to the voluntary sector. Statutory records were considered to be publically available and disclosable to future employers and potential insurers, effecting employment prospects and even mortgage applications.
- Was the provision of support services straight forward or as complex as rocket science? Some panel members considered that there had been too much debate and study in this area and that funding and implementation was needed. Others considered that the complexities of the issues; the interplay between the statutory services and voluntary sector and the diversity of the victims required further consideration. Akima Thomas of Women and Girls Network queried whether it was not a lack of understanding on how to proceed but societies attitudes and beliefs and a lack of political will which was hindering progress, acknowledging that the IICSA is a possible vehicle for this change.
- Further consideration was needed regarding whether a one size fits all or a more diverse, tailored system was required to best address the diversity of victims and their experiences. Discussion led by Akima Thomas considered that in most groups, sexual abuse takes place within the context of multiple disadvantage including poverty and discrimination. In discussing the black and minority ethnic groups she raised that services would likely have to deal with connected issues such as FGM, forced marriage and language barriers, and as such the system must be both the “same and different”, available to all but tailored to the needs of specific victims.