Like many who have been sexually abused as children I suppressed the memories of the abuse for many years as a self-protective mechanism. It was only in the last couple of years that I have found those memories and feeling beginning to surface despite my best efforts to keep them down.
As they did my own mental health deteriorated and I began looking for support and help only to find that there seemed to be no help tailored to Adult survivors of abuse available in Somerset. Even that provided by charities was sparse and focused in the bigger cities.
This prompted me to begin asking questions believing that either the NHS or Local Authority would be responsible for the recognition of the need for such support and its provision. After finding little or no information on the web sites of wither the Clinical Commissioning Group or the local authority I decided to ask, via a freedom of information request, what provision they had in place and what their planed provision was.
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The need for specific support for adult survivors of historic / Non recent childhood abuse is neither well understood or provided for.
The belief within the groups that commission both physical and mental health services is that the existing generic services are adequate.
Needs and Provision.
One of the big issues, at least in my limited experience, is that dealing with the fallout from childhood sexual abuse isn’t easy. It requires a lot of support and professional help.
That support is increasing being put in place for children, as it should be. But in many cases the abuse is not disclosed at the time and often not coming to the surface until the victim is an adult, often years or decades later.
The support that an adult victim will need is officers going be different for each and every one but there will I feel be some commonalities that need to be provided for.
I would suggest that the support falls into two general categories, Mental Health issues and trauma related problems.
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Somerset Council has now responded to my request for details on their policy regarding disclosing the identity of adult survivors of child abuse.
Interestingly while they do not have a specific policy they do note that they have to work under the Care Act 2014 and Care and Support Statutory Guidance 2016, the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 and the Data Protection
This is an interesting repose, acknowledging as it does that there is some legal requirements on them even if they are not specificity related to adult survivors of child abuse.
The general policy was described as
We take the decision to disclose the identity of people who disclose historic
very seriously. This would not be a decision that Somerset County Council
takes in isolation;
we would work with relevant partner organisations to decide what
information should be
disclosed, to whom and by whom. The information disclosed depends on the nature of the criminal investigation and is dealt with on a case-by-case basis.
One concern I have is that when asked what support & protection was be provided should a disclosure take place the response didn’t seem to acknowledge the needs of the survivor concentrating on the risk to any investigation
The decision to disclose the ‘complainant’s’ details to the alleged abuser will be
fully risk assessed as part of a multi-agency strategy discussion to ascertain the parameters
of this disclosure and the impact it could have on an investigation.
You can read the full response in this PDF somerset-foi-disclosure
Hampshire County Council has responded to the request for information regarding its policy about disclosing the identity of somebody who discloses historic abuse to them.
On the face of it, it looks a lot better than some, but the proof is of course in its application and personal experience tells me that in this case I don’t think we can rely on the policy actually being implemented.
This is of course the danger where we have to rely on procedures and guideline not backed up in law.
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So I asked North Somerset for some information regarding their policy about disclosure:
Dear North Somerset Council,
I would like to know you policy regarding the disclosure of the identity of people who disclose historic sexual abuse
- Also Specifically:
Is the identity of the complainant disclosed to the alleged abuser and if so under what conditions?
- What processes and procedures are in place to protect and support the complainant when / if his or her identity is disclosed
- What prior notice is given to the complainant regarding potential disclosure of his / her identity
- What warnings about potential disclosure of his / her identity are provided before the complainant discloses.
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