Young victims of sexual abuse and exploitation are being offered new support through a pilot programme launched by a Christian charity.
The Children's Society's Support Rethought programme, funded by the Home Office's Child Sexual Abuse Support Services Transformation Fund, is offering one-to-one support to 8-18-year-olds in three areas - Devon, Nottinghamshire, and Newcastle.
Help is being offered to children and young people referred to the service within six weeks of them reporting being the victim of sexual abuse.
The charity's National Programme Manager for the scheme told Premier more about it:
"Sexual abuse and exploitation is a horrendous ordeal, extremely traumatic and impacts many areas of young people's lives. We see that it impacts their relationships at home, their friendships, education, well-being and their mental health as well. And the road to recovery can be an extremely long one. And the impacts are not the same for everybody.
"Children might have thoughts and feelings they can't control, maybe nightmares struggling to sleep, they might feel scared, angry, unsafe. Often they're left with those feelings for quite a long time before they can access support. So what we're hoping to do is provide very early support in those crucial first six weeks, alongside their parent or carer - as long as they're not the person that's abused them - to help find some simple coping mechanisms and strategies that they can work on together. And to start on that road to recovery."
The service is running as a year-long pilot and referrals will be accepted from agencies including sexual assault referral centres, children's social care, the police, education and other third sector organisations.
The Children's Society says assessments of children referred to social care in England identified more than 30,460 instances of child sexual abuse and more than 18,700 cases of child sexual exploitation in 2019/20.
However, it says this is just the tip of the iceberg because most cases of sexual abuse and exploitation are never reported to authorities. The CSA (Child Sexual Abuse) Centre estimates that at least 15% of girls and 5% of boys experience child sexual abuse before the age of 16.
Professionals and parents can enquire about making a referral to the service by emailing SupportRethought@childrenssociety.org.uk