Women as Protectors - Evidence, impact and evaluation At a glance

We’ve developed Women as Protectors to help mums and carers who are in contact with a man who poses a risk of sexual harm to children. We’re testing the service to see if it can increase women’s knowledge and understanding of sexual abuse and enhance their ability to protect their children.

How sexual abuse affects children

1 in 20 children in the UK have been sexually abused. But a high number of these cases go unreported, undetected, unprosecuted and untreated.

Sexual abuse can have many varied impacts on children and young people. The stress suffered by an abused child can have a significant impact on the child's health and development. It can impact on behaviour and relationships, including risky or harmful sexual behaviour, delinquency, crime and poor parenting. In the longer term, the consequences can limit future opportunities and lead to further problems later in life.

Dealing with the consequences of childhood sexual abuse also has a significant economic cost to the NHS, criminal justice system and children's social care services.

Read more about child sexual abuse.

How Women as Protectors is helping prevent child abuse and neglect

Women in contact with men who pose a risk of sexual harm to children may find it difficult to reflect on the impact their partner may have on the children involved and their emotional needs may be overlooked.

Research shows that it's important to engage a child's network in their protection (Wurtele and Miller-Perrin, 1992; Smith, 1995). Work with protective or non-abusing carers has a very big impact on the protection of children in families.

We have lots of experience working with women who have a key role in protecting children from sexual abuse. Over several decades we have been offering individual and group work across the UK. Women as Protectors incorporates this knowledge and experience.

The programme aims to:

  • develop coping strategies
  • reflect on the broader impact of their partner's offending
  • empower women to play an active role in protecting their children.

Women as Protectors is based on 'Breaking the Cycle', a non-offending partner programme designed and delivered by Circles South East.

How we're evaluating this service

We are assessing the effectiveness of Women as Protectors in supporting women who protect children from sexual abuse.

There are 2 components to the evaluation of Women as Protectors:

Pre and post evaluation

Key primary outcomes of the service were identified in partnership with practitioners delivering the programme. The outcomes are measured using psychometric measures before and after the group work.

Measures are collected at 3 time points for women:

  • T1: just before starting the programme
  • T1: at the final session of the group work
  • T3: 6 months after completing the group work.

Children complete their psychometric measure at each session that they attend and again 6 months later.

Process evaluation

12 women and 12 children who complete Women as Protectors, will be interviewed.

Interviews will explore the experiences of service users and help to identify underlying facilitators and barriers to the programme bringing about change for women and children.

10 mentors, practitioners and referrers will be interviewed to provide an insight into their perspectives on the outcomes that the programme achieves.

End of programme questionnaires will be completed by women, children and mentors.

This service was launched in January 2015 so no challenges so far.

This evaluation will be carried out internally by the NSPCC evaluation department. It uses the following tools:

  • Tool to measure Parenting Self-Efficacy (TOPSE) (protective Parenting)
  • Rosenberg Self Esteem Scale (woman's self-esteem)
  • Adult Wellbeing Scale (woman's wellbeing)
  • Outcome Rating Scale (ORS) (children's wellbeing).

Find out more about the tools used to measure outcomes

Contact our Evaluation team for more information.

What we're doing next

Professionals in children's social care tell us that there's a need for an evaluated best practice guide for assessment and intervention work in this area.

This service will therefore involve the development of a best-practice guide based on the provision of information, advice and support to women whose children have been suspected to have been or are at risk of sexual abuse.

Impact and evidence

Find out how we evaluate and research the impact we’re making in protecting children, get tips and tools for researchers and access resources.

Our impact and evidence

Letting the Future In

Evidence, impact and evaluation of our service

Find out more

Turn the Page

Evidence, impact and evaluation of our service

Find out more

Protect and Respect

Evidence, impact and evaluation of our service

Find out more

National Clinical Assessment and Treatment Service (NCATS)

Evidence, impact and evaluation of our service

Find out more

Assessing the Risk, Protecting the Child

Evidence, impact and evaluation of our service

Find out more

Women as Protectors

Evidence, impact and evaluation of our service

Find out more


  1. Smith, Gerrilyn (1995) Assessing protectiveness in cases of child sexual abuse in Reder, P; Lucey, C, (eds) Assessment of parenting psychiatric and psychological contributions.

  2. Wurtele and Miller-Perrin (1992) Preventing child sexual abuse: sharing the responsibility. Lincoln, USA: University of Nebraska Press.