Child sex abuse: Truth Project participants are an inspiration

The shared experiences of 6,000 adults can inspire nurses despite inaction on recommendations of an independent inquiry into child sexual abuse

A young boy sitting on a swing in a children’s play area in a park
Picture: iStock

In 2022, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) handed its final report to the then home secretary Grant Shapps.

The report’s delivery was overshadowed by the resignation of the short-serving prime minister Liz Truss and its knock-on effect on the Conservative Party, mirroring the institutional failings that had led to IICSA being commissioned in the first place.

Not one of 20 recommendations have been implemented by the UK government

Things have not got much better for IICSA’s legacy since then, with none of the 20 recommendations being implemented by the UK government so far, despite big promises. More heartening is the inquiry’s victims and survivors consultative panel and the outgoing chair Alexis Jay working together to lobby across parliament with some success.

Recent, third-sector led initiatives are also doing their best to keep the work of the inquiry in plain sight.

From the perspective of those of us working in health and social care, and you as mental health nurses, there is much of IICSA’s work that is of relevance.

Almost 90% of Truth Project participants – one arm of IICSA that gave child sexual abuse survivors an opportunity to share their testimony with the inquiry in a confidential, trauma-informed setting – reported detrimental effects on their mental health arising from their abuse.

Adult survivors of child sexual abuse can talk safely about their experiences if properly supported

This fits with other research suggesting that lifelong mental and physical health problems are a common consequence for children who are sexually abused.

The good news from IICSA’s work is that, despite the social taboo about child sexual abuse, adult survivors can, in the main, talk safely about their experiences if properly supported, and staff can manage disclosure safely if adequately trained to do so.

More than 6,000 adults shared with the Truth Project, and many did so for reasons of civic generosity, wanting to help prevent future generations from suffering like they did.

It is from this social action that health and social care professionals, like yourselves, can draw inspiration from continuing to face up to the problem of child sexual abuse, to prevent future harm and provide dignified care to survivors.

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