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


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.

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