Our member Rape Crisis Centres provide specialist services to women and girls whose lives have been affected by sexual violence of any kind at any time. Adult women survivors of childhood sexual abuse make up over half of our services users and yet, as a movement, we've long been aware that this is a group often not supported or even recognised by society. Since the recent high profile media coverage and discussion of childhood sexual abuse, our member Rape Crisis Centres have seen a dramatic rise in calls to their helplines from women and girl survivors. This reinforces our understanding that this is a far wider-reaching issue than is often acknowledged and strengthens our conviction to continue providing specialist, independent and confidential sexual violence services to all women and girl survivors.
One of the questions that has been raised in the media is why childhood sexual abuse cases are so often not reported at the time. Through our extensive front-line experience of working with women and girls, we know there are a host of complex and interconnected barriers to victims of any sexual violence reporting to the police or even seeking support. For victims of childhood abuse as well as others, we know that fear is a significant one of these factors. Perpetrators of any form of sexual violence use fear as a weapon to keep their victims silent. Victims are often told repeatedly that dreadful things will happen to them and/or their family and friends should they disclose, that what is happening is their fault and that no-one will believe them. Sadly and shamefully, in many cases when children do disclose sexual abuse, they are not believed or are even blamed and punished.
100% of the responsibility for any act of sexual violence lies with its perpetrator. A child can never be responsible for sexual abuse against them whether the abuser is known to them, related to them or a complete stranger. Children and teenagers who have been groomed, manipulated and sexually exploited should be believed and treated and supported as victims, not minimised as willing participants.
Rape Crisis would encourage any woman or girl affected by any kind of sexual violence, regardless of how long ago it took place, to contact her local Rape Crisis Centre for confidential, independent, specialist support: www.rapecrisis.org.uk
Rape Crisis (England and Wales) is a member of the End Violence Against Women coalition (EVAW). For more information about our response to proposed enquiries into the Jimmy Savile case, please visit: http://www.endviolenceagainstwomen.org.uk/news