Disclosing child sexual abuse and reluctance to report
As specialist child abuse lawyers, we understand that it can be a big step when individuals come to us for advice. Speaking out about abuse can be an extremely difficult and traumatic process, but we pride ourselves on being understanding and sympathetic. Our lawyers have over 20 years of experience dealing with survivors of abuse.
What are the barriers to disclosure of abuse?
Barriers for the Individual
These can include fear, shame, and embarrassment; fear of a negative response or of not being believed; fear that they may be perceived in a different light, or their sexuality questioned; fear that they may be blamed for what happened; Psychological difficulties and concern that disclosure may increase any difficulties; communication difficulties.
Barriers created by the perpetrator
The abuser may have groomed or manipulated the individual, causing them to question whether they were at fault or in some way responsible for what happened to them. Grooming can also leave the victim with the misunderstanding that what happened to them was not wrong, that they were consenting or willingly participating. The abuser may have made threats at the time and used their power and control, leaving the victim feeling under that power and control for many years afterwards.
Where abuse has occurred within an institutional setting there may be additional barriers. The institution may have inadequate systems for reporting and safeguarding, have a lack of record keeping and information sharing. There may be a culture of denial or refusal to accept abuse occurs. Those abused in religious setting often find it difficult to disclose, especially when they still have close ties with their religion. Children and young people in children’s homes are often frightened of the repercussions of disclosing. In Sports clubs we have learned that social circles are close knit and young athletes have been deterred from disclosing abuse through fear of this impacting on their future within the sport.
Responding to disclosures of abuse
There is also an element of responsibility on others when it comes to the reporting and disclosure of abuse. We have a moral and social responsibility to spread awareness and educate each other, not only on how to spot the signs of abuse but also how to respond when someone confides in us. This is particularly important for professionals, like us lawyers, who work with or are in close contact with survivors. Often an abused individual who may be ready to or may want to disclose behaves in a certain way or makes certain actions or steps. It is important to we aware of these indicators so that we can respond in the best way possible. Some simple advice from the NSPCC is to be patient and focus on what you are being told, trying not to express your own views and feelings. The NSPCC website contains further helpful advice and information on responding to disclosures of abuse and how to help.
Find out what compensation you could claim using out organisational assault and abuse compensation calculator which will give you an idea of what you could be entitled to claim.