Finding the silenced: Mapping gaps in child sexual abuse services

Type Research

Joanne Butterworth, Clare Lowe, Louise Norbury, Lynda Regan
Published on
1 July 2020

As part of Barnardo’s programme of change and influence, Core Priority funding was awarded to the Safer Futures Sexual Abuse Therapeutic and Assessment Service (SATAS) to investigate one of the most overlooked and hidden groups at this present time: children under ten who have been sexually abused and their families.

The research mapped what had been learnt experientially across the 20-year period that the SATAS service has been running. This was supplemented by an online questionnaire and a series of semi-structured interviews with multi-agency professionals to gain a snapshot of the prevalence, needs and access to services for children under ten and their families.

To support and inform the empirical research, a team of researchers from the University of Bedfordshire were commissioned to conduct a rapid evidence assessment focussing on the following areas:

  1. child sexual abuse (CSA) disclosure among children under the age of ten
  2. post-abuse support for children under ten and their families
  3. related gaps in services.

Through this research we found that:

  • younger children’s experiences of sexual abuse are less likely to be recognised
  • services are less well positioned to support younger children after CSA is identified.

To find out more about our recommendations to commissioners and professionals about how we can fill these gaps and provide the right support to children under ten and their families, read our key messages documents below.