No one noticed, no one heard A study of disclosures of childhood abuse
This report describes the childhood experiences of abuse of young men and women and how they disclosed this abuse and sought help.
Researchers interviewed 60 young adults (aged 18-24 years) who had experienced high levels of different types of abuse and violence during childhood. The young adults were asked whether they had tried to tell anyone about what was happening to them, and what had happened as a result of their disclosures. Although much research suggests that few children disclose sexual abuse, in this study over 80% had tried to tell someone about the abuse.
Authors: Debbie Allnock and Pam Miller
- Over 80% of the children tried to tell someone about the abuse.
- On average, it took 7 years for the young people to disclose sexual abuse. The younger the child was when the sexual abuse started, the longer it took for them to disclose.
- There are a number of different ways that a child may try to let someone know what is happening to them. Disclosure – especially at the time of abuse – is rarely a straightforward process of just saying they have been abused.
- Many disclosures were either not recognised or understood, or they were dismissed, played down or ignored; this meant that no action was taken to protect or support the young person.
- The young people disclosed for a variety of reasons including: not being able to cope with the abuse any longer; abuse getting worse; wanting to protect others from abuse; or seeking justice.
- Reasons for not disclosing included: having no one to turn to; not understanding they were being abused; being ashamed or embarrassed; being afraid of the consequences of speaking out.
- Disclosing abuse is a difficult journey and 90% of the young people had had negative experiences at some point, mostly where the people they told had responded poorly.
- Positive experiences of disclosures were when: the child was believed, some action was taken to protect the child, and emotional support was provided.
- The young people said they wanted: someone to notice that something was wrong; they wanted to be asked direct questions; they wanted professionals to investigate sensitively but thoroughly; and they wanted to be kept informed about what was happening.
|Chapter 1: Introduction||8|
|Chapter 2: The young people||13|
|Chapter 3: Disclosing abuse||16|
|Chapter 4: Missed opportunities for intervention||48|
|Chapter 5: The disclosure journey||52|
|Chapter 6: Conclusion||55|
Please cite as: Allnock, D. and Miller, P. (2013) No one noticed, no one heard: a study of disclosures of childhood abuse. London: NSPCC.
Other research and resources
How safe are our children? 2016
How safe are our children? 2016 is the NSPCC's third annual report that compiles and analyses the most robust and up-to-date child protection data that exists across the four nations in the UK for 2016.
Child abuse and neglect in the UK today
Caught in a trap: the impact of grooming
Helpline highlight: more people contacting the NSPCC with concerns about neglected children
Our Current Awareness Service for Practice, Policy And Research delivers free weekly email alerts to keep you up-to-date with all the latest safeguarding and child protection news.
How safe are our children? conference 2017
How safe are our children? is the NSPCC’s annual flagship conference for everyone working in child protection.
Follow us on Twitter and keep up-to-date with all the latest news in child protection.
We hold the UK's largest collection of child protection resources and the only UK database specialising in published material on child protection, child abuse and child neglect.
New in the Library
A free weekly email listing all of the new child protection publications added to our library collection.
Helping you keep children safe
Read our guide for professionals on what we do and the ways we can work with you to protect children and prevent abuse and neglect.
Impact and evidence hub
Find out how we evaluate and research the impact we’re making in protecting children, get tips and tools for researchers and access resources.
Get expert training and consultancy
Sharing knowledge to keep children safe
Read our guide to NSPCC Knowledge and Information Services to find out how we can help you with child protection queries, support your research, and help you learn and develop.