Survivors of Abuse Conference – Peter Saunders


Peter Saunders – CEO of NAPAC (National Association for People Abused In Childhood)

#ChildSexualAbuse #CSA

#IICSA #BreakingTheCycle #BreakingTheSilence #SOB #IntrafamilialAbuse

This was my speech last week at #CityHall #MOPAC with the Deputy Mayor of Policing & Crime Sophie Linden.

They asked me to share a snapshot of my life and my current experience of the Police in response to the #MBARC Needs Assessment report & the #HMIC report which was published last week.

I wanted to speak at this event and to Police Officers (who work with victims & survivors of abuse) to make sure they understand the impact of child abuse on us as individuals and how they conduct themselves through an investigation can have a positive or further negative impact on us.

Their approach in dealing with complainants needs further work. They are listening and they are keen to improve but they have restricted resources and their approach needs to be trauma informed which takes more time, more training and more care from officers. Not every officer is suited to this work.

If I had a chance I would have the same conversation with health care professionals, social workers, the judiciary system and so on!

The whole care pathway for victims & survivors needs an overhaul & investment.

It’s needs a top level strategy to look at all the pieces rather than this silo approach that is taking place.

It’s going to take a huge investment to tackle #CSA & #CSE in England & Wales.

In my opinion if we get the future prevention, education & response right it will save us hugely in long term costs.

I’m not sure the Government and here I’m referring to all political parties really wants to understand the true scale & scope of the problem we face because of the investment that is needed. My case in point is that the Government talk about #CSE and fund that ( and rightly so) but this is just a small subset of #CSA which they glide over and don’t fund!!!


“My siblings & I have been a victims of emotional abuse, physical abuse, some of us were sexually abused within the home environment and I was groomed & sexually abused by someone outside of the home.

We all grew up in a domestic violence household – 2 in fact.

The trauma we suffered from what we experienced as children and adolescents has stayed with us for our lifetime.

We are still trying to get the right help and support today.

* I reported to the Police when I was 9
* We told social workers what life was like at home
* I wrote stories at school about life at home – you could clearly see and smell that we were neglected.
* My sister & I reported to the police when she was 16 & I was 18.

After trying to speak up to different people but not being believed; after awhile, you just shut up!

But all those feelings of hurt, anger, guilt, shame, stress affects both your mental & physical health – over time you either explode or implode – take it out the people around you or yourself or both.

We felt unheard and forgotten for decades but in 2012 we decided to share our experiences because we never thought we would get ‘justice’ – our voices heard – any other way.

We wanted to help others understand that child abuse is not their fault, that they were not alone and they could speak up too if they decided to.

I then shared my experiences with #IICSA, the matter was referred to Op Hydrant and onto the local Police force this year.

We now have an ongoing investigation into our experiences 35 years on.

So far our Police journey has been up and down in terms of being retraumatising and no appriprate support being offered.

I have researched the impact of trauma of childhood sexual abuse on the victims & survivors and have recently written a self help therapy book on this matter.

I explained the dynamics and the complexities of our family to the Police and they have gone against the insight I offered and made some decisions that have personally caused me great stress.

This was retraumatising and bought about intense feelings of anger and mistrust.

Key Issues in my opinion that need to be addressed:-

1) Trust – Survivors/ victims /complainants need to be able to trust their case officer. They need continuity of the relationship. We are 4 months into our case and we have a different officer already.

2) Importance & understanding of the subject matter – child sexual abuse #CSA child sexual exploitation #CSE is at epidemic levels in England & Wales

It not only affects the child that is enduring it but the adult the child becomes and in some cases the future generations of that child – I have seen this in my own family.

We need a lead who understands this and who will change the culture going fwds to put the complainants health & wellness at the fore of any criminal investigation.

We need agencies to work together to share info and through best practise help and support not only the victim and the families but start to change the way society percives child sexual abuse.

3) Support throughout the investigation – Look to other forces for best practise

I have undetaken training with Surrey Police whose head puts alot of emphasise on the complainants journey.

Their model is based on having a SOIT Investigative Office as well as support officer in the form of an ISVA to deal with the worries concerns and practicalities of the complainant.

The care of the complainant (welfare & legal process now) is taken care by the team work of the Police and support worker.

I have had no such support and this has impacted my siblings & I

4) Long term specialist support for non recent child sexual abuse is a must. Many orgs who offer specialist support to victims & surviviors have been fighting for years. Funding is not long term many fsce closure at any time.

The long term impact of CSA is well known so why is there no long term plan to fund organisations that do invaluable work in place?

I don’t know how we are going to achieve all the changes that ar needed when cuts are being made everywhere!!

* Caseloads are rising up to 40% across many Police forces.
* IT systems are not robust enough for info sharing across across agencies as outlined in the HMIC report Nov 2016.
* The right support is not in place
* Mental health services are not adequate

Every conversation I have had with victims and survivors and stakeholders (those that provide the serives) the message is clear all services are oversubscribed & underfunded.

The whole care pathway for victims & survivors and the way in which we deal with CSA needs major investment and change.

#Childabuse is at pandemic proportions, it always has been but now MORE victims and survivors are disclosing.

#Sports #Church #Military #Education #CareHomes #Entertainment #CustodialSettings #Schools #Scouts #FamilyHome

The list of institutions goes on & on. Not one institution is exempt!

We need to listen and learn from the past to better safeguard the future.

Children who are currently being abused need help & support right now and the #Barnahaus model seems to be working very well for this.

However victims & survivors of #NonRecentAbuse also need the right response – they have an inner child that is also in dire need of being heard, being believed and supported so that they can move on with their lives.

THE LOW DOWN ON CHILD ABUSE #CSA by Chris Tuck Founder & Director of S.O.B. –


‘Damaged children’ grow up into ‘damaged adults’ and that can continue for generations unless they get the help and support that they deserve and need.

  • Any incident of abuse will make the victim feel powerless and not in control.
  • It will make them feel ashamed and silly that they put themselves in a position to be abused in the first place
  • They will have an overwhelming urge to tell but for many reasons may not have the courage to.



All I remember is that from the age of 7 I was so unhappy at home and school. I remember being hungry, smelly, cold and unloved. I remember being told on a day to day basis how thick and how stupid I was and this was backed up by the beatings at every opportunity.

The stress we endured 24/7 was immense.

When are we going to eat today? when are we going to be shouted at today? when are we going to be hit today? who am I going to try and protect today? am I going to be abused today?

My life was spent constantly looking over my shoulder, listening to what was going on, being on alert for anything that was about to kick off. Talking when I should, being quiet when I should, having eye contact when I should, not having eye contact, crying and not crying when it was expected. No wonder all I wanted to do as a kid was to hide away and not be seen by anyone! No wonder I have trouble making eye contact with people now when it is expected.

1st Disclosure – When I found the courage to tell the 1st time through my story writing at school, I was asked if what I had written was true. When I said yes they could not believe what I had written although I was dressed in rags, I smelt of wee, I was dirty from lack of washing and always hungry.

2nd Disclosure – When I found the courage to tell the second time directly to the social workers who was checking up on us at my step mothers house. They told me that I looked well and asked how things were. I told them that the clean clothes I had on was to impress them and when they had gone I would be made to change out of them and put on my ‘normal’ clothes again. The food that they had seen us eat was for show and that we would not be fed again that day & we were hungry all the time. They told me not to make up lies and left.

3rd Disclosure – When I found the courage to tell the third time I was 15. I explained to someone the situation at home and that I needed to get out, they listened and then said all adolescents have arguments with their parents its all part of growing up. I was advised to go home and just let the argument pass.

After awhile you start to think that it is not worth trying to tell and you just put up with it until you are in aplace where those adults do not have the power and control over you anymore!

In my case it was when I was 15 1/2 and I left home a few weeks later for good and decided life on my own would be far better even though I had no money, nowhere to live etc.

This was the 1st step to FREEDOM and sorting out my life. I am 46 and I now help others sort out their lives.

Stories have been coming out in the media over the last 4 years:

  • Abuse in the church
  • Abuse in the care system
  • Abuse with celebrities
  • Abuse within the home is yet to surface but the Children’s Commissioner is doing a 2 year investigation into this. At the end of Year 1 the Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield released a report stating that 7 or of 8 child victims/survivors have not been identified yet.


Sexual abuse of children occurs throughout British society.

Abuse knows no bounds, it crosses cultures, genders, backgrounds and socio-economic groups.

It is a societal problem and we need to deal with it accordingly and with a #zerotolerance policy.

The present system of child protection was bureaucratic and riddled with prejudice and fear, and badly in need of reform.

People have been shocked by all the different abuse stories in the media but don’t realise the extent of the problem.

We talk about the different reports of abuse in isolation, let’s put them altogether and look at the bigger picture – let’s now see how huge a problem #child abuse is in our  society.



Abusers/child molesters are usually respectable people to the outside world who can be male or female. Abusers/child who have power in some way over a vulnerable person or group of people.

The perpetrators know that they have this power and they exploit it to get what they want. They don’t care about their victim’s needs and wants.

I would like to see a national body formed to oversee the reporting of child abuse, prosecutions, and aftercare for victims and families. For this to work it would need to be properly funded and have clear policies, procedures and governance.

Whistleblowers also need more protection to encourage more to come forward. As things stand people are unlikely to report any concerns they might have for fear of losing their jobs and their homes. Statutory reporting is a must this takes away any uncertainty in reporting child abuse.

Abusers have to know they will be found out and brought to justice. Victims must be heard and given the help and support they need.

Children of any age do not want sexual contact. They just want to be loved and nurtured in the right way and be listened to.

I was mentally, physically, emotionally, severely neglected, sexually assaulted in my home and sexually abused outside of the home. When someone took notice of me (when I was vulnerable), praised me and gave me sweets (groomed me) I liked the attention. After the sexual abuse I felt sick, I was shaking and I felt dirty and used.

All I wanted to do was to get away and scrub myself clean.

I felt stupid and didn’t want to tell anyone at home because I thought I would get into more trouble.

Many children when they do find the courage to speak up are met with anger, hostility, disbelief and more abuse!



I was scared of my own shadow. I constantly lived in fear of being attacked verbally, physically or sexually. It’s very stressful living like this every day.

You grow up not believing in yourself because of everything that has been said and done to you.

You either shy away from confrontation and people – you withdraw into yourself


You come out fighting – literally, especially with your peer group or with people in authority. My brothers were always in fights at school. They didn’t want to lose every shred of power and control that they still had outside of the home.

If you have tried to tell before and no one believed you and you continue to get the daily abuse, then you start to accept your lot and over time you become numb to it and you just do what you have to in order to survive.

To deal with the unspoken pain that is often driven deep inside we may turn our attention to:

  • Food either overeating (binge eating/bulimia) or under-eating (anorexia)
  • Alcohol
  • Drugs
  • Exercise
  • Self Harm
  • OCD (your best is never good enough so you re do it and re do it)

This is our release from what it is we are feeling but cannot express for whatever reason.

We may suffer from one or many of the following and these symptoms may come and go during our lives or be with us all of our lives:

  • Low self esteem/anxiety
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Self harm/suicidal tendencies
  • Drug/alcohol addiction
  • Sexual issues and relationship problems
  • PTSD
  • Struggle with everyday life



  • I was abused in the home and bullied at school. This affected my school work, I couldn’t concentrate mainly because of the hunger and I missed vital developmental stages in my education by not being allowed to do my homework and not being in school whilst in Wales.
  • I covered up my body in baggy clothes as much as I could even up til my late 30’s. I only started wearing dresses and makeup about 18 months ago because I do not like drawing attention to myself.
  • I could not look people in the eye – it was very uncomfortable for me to do so because of the abuse I suffered when I did look mu abusers in the eye.
  • I suffer from bulimia when I am very stressed.
  • I cannot have anyone walk behind me, I need to see people at all times so that I know what is going to happen.
  • Before I released my book 1/9/2013 I was fearful of of what people would think of me. I was ashamed of my background, I thought that my parents defined me. I didn’t like what they represented.
  • I cannot stand people telling me what to do.


My biggest light bulb moment was when I realised that my past didn’t define me and I could be and do anything I wanted. All I had to do was work hard and I would eventually get there. I didn’t expect people to help me and still don’t. I find it extremely hard working in a team and to accept offers of help. I find it even harder to ask for help.



  • We need to acknowledge and accept that we have a huge problem on our hands and it needs to be addressed at the root cause. At a societal level with a zero tolerance policy to child abuse. Child abuse is morally wrong and is not acceptable no matter who you are or what you do. No-one is above the law.
  • We need to put victims/survivors at the forefront of all reforms and investment in this area.
  • People have been shocked as each different abuse story has hit the media but not enough to realise the extent of the problem.
  • We are told that ‘lessons will be learned’ but this is all lip service.
  • We need a major overhaul in how we deal with child abuse in this country. We need an independent governing body that deals with the reporting, prosecuting & sentencing of perpetrators and aftercare of the survivors & their families and the perpetrators and their families.
  • We need complete transparency because of all the cover-ups that have happened. Individuals like me have lost faith.
  • We need proper investment in this area.



  • Statutory reporting (there is an Issue’s paper coming out about this shortly).
  • Educate children about normal healthy relationships, normal love and nurture.
  • Need to believe the child.
  • Educate parents especially if all they have known is abuse, we need to break the cycle.
  • Consistent and appropriate therapy for the victim, the survivor and the perpetrator.



What is the cost to the NHS from treating mental health issues as a result of child abuse? If we invest in preventing the cause of the problem then we will cut the huge cost of treating the symptoms.

There are many people like me and organisations that want to help but these are voluntary non profit organisations who are underfunded & overstretched.

  • NAPAC Adult Support Line
  • The Survivors Trust
  • Rape Crisis
  • The Southmead Project
  • Survivors UK
  • S.O.B.
  • ShatterBoys
  • One In Four
  • Cisters
  • Survivors Network

and many many more voluntary organisations that have set themselves up to help support ADULT victims & survivors of #CSA.

Everything I have done so far I have paid for myself. I am not rich just a normal person who is trying to speak up and help others in my situation.

I wrote the book ‘Through The Eyes Of A Child’ to raise funds to pay for the work that I do under the ‘Breaking The Cycle™ Health & Wellness’ umbrella.



Through The Eyes Of A Child (available on Amazon)

Parenting Without Tears (can be downloaded for free

‘Breaking The Cycle™’ Self Help Book (available Autumn 2016)



‘Releasing The Shame™’ of Childhood Abuse

‘Unleashing your Inner Phoenix™’



‘Life After Abuse™’ Conference


‘Breaking The Cycle™’ Health and Wellness C.L.E.A.N.E.R.® Living Programmes.

There are many solutions for survivors out there but they don’t know about them.

They need the help but they don’t want to be labelled and may not come forward of their own accord but if they were referred they would welcome the help support and guidance from specialist service providers.

So we need proper investment to put the solutions in place and give survivors access to the solutions to empower them to live their lives to the full!
Copyright Chris Tuck Founder & Director of S.O.B.

S.O.B Breaking The Cycle™ Live – Episode 1 Welcome

#ItsNotOk – FREE Download To Mark The Launch – #ThroughTheEyesOfAChild

To support @itsnotok2016 you will be able to download‪ #‎ThroughTheEyesOfAChild‬ for FREE from Amazon Kindle

ON 1st FEB 2016 ONLY

Amazon Kindle eBooks can be downloaded in the following territories:

US, Canada, UK, Germany, India, France, Italy, Spain, Japan, Brazil, Mexico, Australia.

So please put the date in your diary!

CT with book (2)SASV Logo and Stakeholder logos
Please share, thank you x

Sexual Abuse & Sexual Violence Awareness Week FAQ

What is Sexual Abuse & Sexual Violence Awareness Week?

The inaugural Awareness Week has been established to give an opportunity for the general public, statutory and third sector organisations to participate in a discussion about sexual abuse and sexual violence.

During the week people will raise awareness about sexual abuse and sexual violence and how to prevent it in the UK.

When is the Awareness Week?

The Awareness Week will be the first week of February every year.

This year – 2016 – will be the 1st – 7th February 2016. Where will it be? Across the entire United Kingdom.

How can I/we get involved?


If you are an individual you can join the conversation on social media following the topic hashtag and/or make contact with your local organisation to get involved in promoting awareness.

If you are an organisation you can recycle or create a campaign with the Awareness Week logo and hashtag (both are attached as images) to promote awareness of your services, prevention, support etc. As well as participate in social media conversations and involve your local media and community.

Is there a topic?

Yes. This year the topic of conversation is ‘it’s not okay’. There will be a hashtag in use throughout the week on social media #itsnotokay.

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Why are we doing this?

It is important for everyone who has been affected by sexual abuse and sexual violence to be aware that as a country we will be having a public discussion about sexual abuse and sexual violence.

Perpetrators also need to know that these discussions are taking place. It is time to put the topic at the forefront of a national conversation to promote specialist services that many organisations are offerings.

The focus is going to be on the fact that all forms of sexual abuse and sexual violence are unacceptable and victims/survivors should not have to tolerate it.

There should also be adequate services to support those who have experienced it and clear guidelines for reporting it.


Is it focused towards a specific group?

No. The Awareness Week is all inclusive. We want to ensure that everyone who has been subjected to sexual abuse and sexual violence can access the most appropriate support and advice, regardless of their ethnicity, gender identity, age, national origin, disability, sexual orientation or religion.


Who do I contact for more information?

Is there a website?

Yes the website is The website will be a point of signposting for any member of the public. If you are a registered charity providing support for individuals affected by sexual abuse and sexual violence you can provide your contact details to be included on the website.


You can also find us on:

Facebook at

Twitter @itsnotok

Itsnotok white


Press & Media Inquiries

BASPCAN – / Jonathan Picken

Migdal Emunah – / Yehudis Goldsobel / 07899 814 137

NAPAC – / Gabriella Shaw / 020 3176 0560

NSPCC – / Rohini Pahl / 020 3772 9193

Rape Crisis – / Katie Russell / 07442 499777

Survivors UK – Keith Best / 020 3598 3898

Survivors Of Abuse – / Diane Sealey Carrot PR ( ) / 07798 524846

The Survivors Trust – / Sarah Cheadle – 01788 550554 or Fay Maxted – 07713 147829

Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Investigating the extent to which institutions have failed to protect children from sexual abuse

IICSA imageThe Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse will investigate whether public bodies and other non-state institutions have taken seriously their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse in England and Wales. Read our opening statement and the November update statement.

We will identify institutional failings where they are found to exist. We will demand accountability for past institutional failings. We will support victims and survivors to share their experience of sexual abuse. And we will make practical recommendations to ensure that children are given the care and protection they need.

If you have suffered child sexual abuse and want to share your experience then please click on the link

Children’s Commissioner

OCC logoThis is a useful link for victims / survivors of child abuse within the home environment. The OCC are undertaking a 2 year Inquiry into child abuse within the home.

They have recently issued their interim report which can be found by clicking the link below: 

NAPAC – National Association For People Abused In Childhood


It has been estimated that a million children a year in the UK suffer some form of abuse. Around one in four children are abused at some time.

Many organisations are focussed on preventing abuse, rescuing children who are subject to abuse, stopping it happening again. But one fact is often overlooked: almost all abused children grow up to become adults. The damage caused by abuse in childhood doesn’t always end in childhood.

Many adults with a history of childhood abuse can continue to suffer – from post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders, depression. They have a higher chance than others of becoming involved in crime, prostitution, drugs or alcohol abuse. They can suffer from low self-esteem and be prone to self-harm or suicide.

If you need help please call the NAPAC helpline on 0808 801 0331 or check out their website

TST – The Survivors Trust

TST logoThe Survivors Trust (TST) is a UK-wide national umbrella agency for 141 specialist organisations for support for the impact of rape, sexual violence and childhood sexual abuse throughout the UK and Ireland.

Our Trustee Board is exclusively made up of Managers and Directors of rape and sexual abuse support services. Our core aim is to empower survivors or rape, sexual violence or childhood sexual abuse through supporting and improving effective responses to survivors. Member organisations provide a range of direct services to survivors including counselling, support, helplines and advocacy services for women, men and children.

If you would like to find appropriate specialist support services please visit the TST website by clicking the link below:

About Us

‘Breaking The Cycle’™

S.O.B’s primary purpose is to empower Y the adult victim /survivor to transform your life holistically through mindset, nutrition and fitness.

Are you an adult victim/survivors who has experienced any form of the following, individually or collectively:
• Emotional abuse
• Physical abuse
• Sexual abuse
• Neglect
As a result of childhood abuse.

Yes? S.O.B. is here to support you.

SOB’s secondary work is to:

• Educate stakeholders – social workers / counsellors / specialist support services / Government about the impact of childhood abuse on the adult and how mindset, nutrition, fitness & de-stressing can improve the mental, emotional & physical health & well being of the adult victim & survivor.

• Work with partners, carers, family members & supporters to improve their ability to support survivors.


Chris Tuck – Founder, Author, Health & Wellness Coach


As a survivor of all forms of childhood abuse and neglect I know how challenging it is to lead a normal everyday life. With a background in accountancy I  re-trained as a health coach because of the problems I faced as a result of he abuse I had suffered. I have been a Health Coach since 2003 and have worked within the Priory Group delivering fitness programmes to inpatients. I now raise awareness about the effects of child abuse on the victims/ survivors’ mental, emotional & physical health and I am a regular speaker/presenter on TV & at national and regional conferences, & events.

Diane Sealey – Communications and Media Relations

Diane Sealey

With a background in education I have been working in the field of PR for over 20 years.  I am passionate about ‘putting back’ and over the years I have worked with various charities. My experience includes working with End Child Poverty – a coalition of the UK’s largest children’s charities and AbilityNet – supporting disabled people by helping them to use digital technology at work, at home or in education. I’m passionate and proud to be involved with Survivors Of Abuse – an organisation for positive change, and I am excited about the help and support this charity will provide helping Survivors of Abuse to heal and fulfil their potential; everyone deserves that

 Andrew Crawford – Head of Finance

AC Headshot small
A qualified Accountant with a 25 year background experience in Education Finance, Business Development & Consulting. This experience included the monitoring and claiming of Grant funding and the internal and external audit of charities and external funds. He enjoys various sports, reading personal development books and positive thinking.He says “I am keen to see the development of Survivors of Abuse and the positive life changing benefits it will have on all those who uses its services”

Conference – Life After Abuse™

The first ‘Life After Abuse’™ conference was held in London in September 2014 to positively addresses the subject of abuse, bringing together the expertise and experiences of all stakeholders involved in working with survivors.

Why this conference?

Many adult victims/survivors are in turmoil, confused and don’t know where to turn. The secrecy, shame and guilt surrounding child hood abuse is damaging to the adult victim/survivor’s health & wellbeing. Childhood abuse is such a taboo subject that it is not spoken about openly. SOB works to break the taboo and silence surrounding child abuse and created the Life After Abuse™ Conference where victims/survivors could gather in a safe place and listen to the expertise and experiences of stakeholders involved in working with survivors. By offering adult victims/survivors possible solutions to the challenges they face on a day to day basis they are empowered to make changes in their lives that in turn will improve their overall health and wellness.

About the Conference

The Life After Abuse™ one-day Conference is specifically designed to give adult victims/survivors hope together with a road map about the positive steps and help that is available to all them.

All speakers are survivors and/or professionals who work with survivors – we truly understand the challenges that survivors face.

The next conference will be held in 2016 – date t.b.c

The Scale of Abuse By Fergal Keane & Dominic Hurst BBC News

Child sexual abuse has dominated the news agenda since the Jimmy Savile revelations. But the focus on abuse by celebrities and grooming gangs masks the fact that more than 80% of abuse takes place within the home, according to campaigners.

Abuse in the home is rarely reported to police and survivors rarely get justice.

It is a secret history of horrific stories, of children abused by those they loved and trusted or targeted because their home circumstances made them vulnerable to manipulative outsiders.

On a bench in a deserted park in Kent, Chris Tuck is warming up for her exercise routine. Despite the cold wind she stretches her body then jogs on the spot, preparing for her morning workout.

She is a health coach with a successful business and a happy family life.

But Chris Tuck has had to face a traumatic past. She is survivor of abuse. She says her childhood was scarred by neglect, beatings, emotional cruelty and sexual abuse.

Click the link to check out the video:

Fergal Keane hears the stories of survivors of child abuse and how schools are raising awareness of sexual abuse.

“It makes you feel violated,” she says. “It makes you feel dirty. It makes you feel angry. It just doesn’t feel right. It’s hard to explain. You also don’t want to talk about it. It’s not something you would go up and say: ‘My Daddy has been touching me here, my Daddy has been doing that.’ It’s not something you speak about and unless someone asks you that question, why would you speak about it?”

It was when she had her own child that she felt compelled to speak out.

“That’s when I had my breakdown. And I knew I had to get strong to bring my own children up. I have had to learn to love and to nurture. I have had to learn to bring my children up in the best way I can as I never had that as a child. And that is where abuse in the home can be so destructive.”

Tuck is not alone. The NSPCC estimates one in 20 children are victims of sexual abuse. It says in 90% cases the victim is known to the perpetrator. And one in three children never tell anyone about the abuse.

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Sexual abuse

  • An NSPCC study found that around 11% of young adults said that they had experienced sexual abuse in which an abuser makes physical contact with a child during their childhood
  • Girls are at a greater risk than boys of being abused by a family member
  • Boys are at a higher risk than girls of being abused by a stranger
  • The majority of reported abuse is carried out by male abusers but there is some discussion as to whether abuse by female abusers is underreported

Source: NSPCC

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For decades many survivors never spoke about their experiences. Many perpetrators went unpunished. But now more and more survivors are coming forward.

In a small office in south London, Dr Jon Bird is on the telephone, listening intently. The caller is a survivor of child abuse who wants to talk.

Bird is working at the helpline for one of the support groups for survivors, the National Association for People Abused in Childhood. Since the revelations about Jimmy Savile, there’s been a surge in people coming forward reporting abuse.

Between 2012 and 2013 the volume of calls to the NAPAC free helpline doubled to between 1,500 and 2,000 per month. At its peak in the autumn of 2012, the helpline was taking 3,500 calls a month. In the last three years it has also received more than 12,000 emails. Many of the survivors contacting the charity have never spoken before about their abuse.

John Bird

Bird is a good listener. He is a survivor himself. Raped in a park at the age of four and then abused at school, his life spiralled out of control until he was homeless, living on the streets and addicted to heroin.

Through study and perseverance he has now turned his life around and helps others through the painful journey towards recovery that he himself made. Many of those he helps were abused by a relative or somebody they knew.

“Child sexual abuse and all abuse of children rips families apart. I get calls saying I was abused by person x. Then later they tell mum and she cant believe it. She married him. Or trusted him as a brother,” he says.

“It rips families apart. It is much more complicated than a perpetrator and a victim. It is much wider than that and very difficult to talk about in the family, especially in cultures where it is not done to speak ill of your elders.”

He says that with the current focus on celebrity and institutional abuse, the crisis in the home is in danger of being ignored.

“Just 0.06% of abuse was by somebody famous. The vast majority of the problem is in the home.”

In the tranquil Devon seaside town of Torquay, palm trees blow in the sea breeze along the seafront. But here – like so many communities across the UK – there is a hidden problem of abuse.

Not far from the seafront, the Children’s Society runs an outreach project called Checkpoint. Each month it deals with dozens of cases of abuse, child sexual exploitation and missing children.

If you’ve been affected…

  • … the following organisations can help:
  • The police if you have evidence of having suffered sexual abuse so an investigation can be made
  • NSPCC charity specialises in child protection
  • National Association for People Abused in Childhood offers support, advice and guidance to adult survivors of any form of childhood abuse
  • Childline is a private and confidential service for children and young people up to the age of 19
  • The Children’s Society works to support vulnerable children in England and Wales

One of the children its project workers have been helping is “Lisa”, though this is not her real name. From the age of 14 she began going online and soon began meeting men who groomed her.

“Yes I met a lot of people alone. I used to not care. I used to go and meet people at stupid times at night and put myself in danger. It was in exchange for sexual favours and sexual advantage. They were normally aged 19 to 25.”

She explained how she would fall under the spell of internet groomers.

“At first they are so nice. They compliment you. They make you feel like the person you want to be. Then you find out it is all lies they want something out of you. All they do is make you feel worthless.”

Her project workers at the Children’s Society have helped her make changes in her life and she has now found work. But she still struggles with low self-esteem.

“I just feel worthless,” she says. “There are people who die of serious causes. I would prefer to give them my life as I don’t really want mine.”

But there has been a significant cultural change. The shamed silence which surrounded abuse is being challenged. Children are being given explicit warnings about potential dangers – not just those posed by strangers but from those closer to home.

At a school in Fulham in West London children aged 10 and 11 sit attentively waiting for the lesson to begin. They are about to learn about the dangers of abuse.

Instead of teachers, this lesson is conducted by a group of volunteers from Childline, in association with the NSPCC, and all wearing bright green T-shirts bearing the charity’s logo.

The content is remarkably frank and honest. But the tone is calm. There is no sense here that children are being frightened or being taught a general mistrust of adults. They are shown animated videos and told about different forms of abuse – neglect, emotional cruelty, violence and sexual abuse.

Together they chant the ChildLine phone number – 0800 1111 – and its website address.

The children are given tasks to discuss in small groups the different risks a child may face. The discussions are lively and open.

The NSPCC is increasing its work in schools so that by next year it aims to visit every primary school in the UK twice a year, although to do this it needs more volunteers to help.

Last year 18,600 children and young people contacted Childline to discuss child sex abuse. But the culture of shame, the desire to protect parents even if they are abusers, a child’s lack of awareness of their rights – all can act as powerful barriers to breaking the silence.

The NSPCC Area Co-ordinator, Kelly Thorndick, believes it is important that children understand the danger of abuse as early as possible.

“It’s about educating children so they know how to get help at a much earlier stage. But it’s also about giving them the confidence to take action for themselves, as often children don’t understand what is happening to them is abuse,” she says.

If you have been affected, the following organisations can help: The police if you have evidence of having suffered sexual abuse so an investigation can be made. NSPCC charity specialises in child protection. National Association for People Abused in Childhoodoffers support, advice and guidance to adult survivors of any form of childhood abuse. Childline is a private and confidential service for children and young people up to the age of 19. The Children’s Societyworks to support vulnerable children in England and Wales.