Getting help What children are telling ChildLine about the services they receive following sexual abuse

Girl on bed looking worriedChildLine provided almost 11,400 counselling sessions about sexual abuse and online sexual abuse in 2014-15. Children contact us all times of day and night by phone, email and by 1-2-1 online chat.

This report highlights what children and young people are telling us about their expectations and experiences of receiving therapeutic services following sexual abuse. It also looks at contacts to the NSPCC helpline by adults with concerns about child sexual abuse.

Authors: NSPCC
Published: 2016

ChildLine

We provided almost 11,400 counselling sessions about sexual abuse including online sexual abuse in 2014-15.

NSPCC helpline

In 2014-15 the NSPCC helpline responded to over 8,800 calls and emails about sexual abuse.

  • Contacts to the NSPCC helpline about sexual abuse increased 3% since 2013-14 and 20% since 2012-13.
  • Around 1 in 6 of contacts to the NSPCC helpline related to sexual abuse.
  • Around a third of calls and emails about sexual abuse came from parents worried about their own child. Another 43% came from members of the public.

What children and young people told us

  • One third of children had not spoken to anyone else about the abuse before contacting ChildLine.
  • In one third of counselling sessions where sexual abuse was the main concern, children also talked about mental health issues. Symptoms were often triggered by the trauma of the abuse they had experienced.
  • Children and young people often don't have a clear picture of what services there are for them or how they will be treated if they try to ask for help.
  • In 2014-15, there were over 1,700 ChildLine counselling sessions where young people mentioned their concerns and difficulties when accessing services and support. This was a 124% increase compared to the previous year.
  • Young people were unsure of where to report online sexual abuse and were concerned about issues of confidentiality.
  • Many young people referred to specialist services feel they don't understand or aren't receiving clear explanations of how services will work to help them move on from the abuse.
  • Young people are often fearful before attending their first counselling session. They would find it helpful if their general practitioner or agency making the referral could explain what to expect.
  • Some children talked about worries about confidentiality, being judged or not being believed when talking about abuse with a counsellor.
  • More children are telling us they are reporting their experience to the police. Counselling sessions where children talked about this increased by over 50% compared to 2013-14.
Introduction 3
Key facts from our helplines about sexual abuse 4
Children and young people unable to speak out about sexual abuse 5
Talking about emotional distress 5
Children and young people’s perceptions of the services they receive 6
No ‘safe’ picture of counselling 8
Difficulties in talking about abuse with a counsellor 8
Difficulties in talking to a school counsellor 9
Not feeling prepared when a service ends 9
Reporting to the police 10
Claire's story 11
Learning for service delivery 12
If you are worried about a child 12
How to get in touch 12

"…I don't know who will help with the hurt and upset or who can answer all the questions I have about what is happening? I just don't know how I am supposed to live my life like this?"

Please cite as: NSPCC (2016) Getting help: what children tell us about accessing services after sexual abuse. London: NSPCC.

Looking for something in particular?

Our Information Service can help you find the latest policy, practice and research in child protection.

Call 0808 800 5000 or email help@nspcc.org.uk for more information.

Submit an enquiry

Related resources

Evaluation of the Letting the Future In service

Findings from the largest randomised controlled trial of a service to help children who have been sexually abused. Part of the NSPCC's Impact and evidence series.
Find out more

Assessing the risk: protecting the child: evaluation report

Evaluation of whether an NSPCC assessment guide helps protect children from sexual abuse. Part of the NSPCC's Impact and evidence series.
Find out more

How safe are our children? 2015

Our report compiles and analyses the most robust and up-to-date child protection data that exists across the 4 nations in the UK for 2015.
Find out more

"Always there when I need you": Childline annual review 2014-15

The issues children and young people contacted ChildLine about in 2014-15.
Find out more

Preventing child sexual abuse: towards a national strategy

Why we must take action together to stop child sexual abuse before it occurs. Part of the NSPCC’s Impact and evidence series. 
Find out more

It’s Time: campaign report

Why we’re campaigning for every child who has experienced abuse to receive the support they need.
Find out more

Letting the Future In

Letting the Future In helps children who have been sexually abused.
Letting the Future In service

Assessing the Risk, Protecting the Child

We assess and work with adults to reduce the risk of child sexual abuse.
Assessing the Risk service

Turn the Page

We protect children from the most common type of contact sexual abuse.
Turn the Page service

Services for children, families and professionals

We work face to face with children, young people and families who need our help across the UK.
View our services

It's Time

We're calling on the government to make sure every child who's experienced abuse gets support. But we need your help.
Sign our petition

Sexual abuse

A child is sexually abused when they are forced or persuaded to take part in sexual activities. This doesn't have to be physical contact, and it can happen online.
Read more about sexual abuse

Let's talk PANTS!

The Underwear Rule - #TalkPANTS - is a simple way that parents can help keep children safe from abuse. Join Pantosaurus and parents talking PANTS.
Find out about PANTS

CASPAR

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.

CASPAR is currently being upgraded but you can still sign up by contacting our Information Service.

Sign up to CASPAR

Information Service

Our free service for people who work with children can help you find the latest policy, practice, research and news on child protection and related subjects.

For more information, call us or email help@nspcc.org.uk.

0808 800 5000

Submit an enquiry

Follow @NSPCCpro

Follow us on Twitter and keep up-to-date with all the latest news in child protection.

Follow @NSPCCpro on Twitter

Library catalogue

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.

Search the library

New in the Library

A free weekly email listing all of the new child protection publications added to our library collection.

New in the Library is currently being upgraded but you can still sign up by contacting our Information Service.

Sign up to New in the Library

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.

Read our guide (PDF)

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.

Our impact and evidence

Get expert training and consultancy

Grow your child protection knowledge and skills with CPD certified courses delivered by our experts nationwide and online.
Get expert training

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.

Read our guide (PDF)