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It is estimated that 11% of adult women and 3% of adult men have experienced some form of sexual abuse in childhood (CSEW, 2016). An inquiry into sexual abuse perpetrated in the family home estimated there are currently 1.3 million children in England alone, who have experienced sexual abuse, of which 75% are girls. When we combine these figures to the increasing reports of child sexual exploitation outside the family home, in public as well as institutions, the reality of the prevalence of sexual abuse perpetrated against children and young people is alarming.

With an increase in discussions and awareness of the prevalence of sexual abuse perpetrated against children and young people within our society, the demand from survivors of all ages, for specialist sexual violence services has never been greater. In response to this, we’re thrilled to receive funding from Children in Need, to expand our existing counselling service and offer specialist play therapy for children aged 5 – 16 years old.

To ensure children can feel safe to explore, we’ve created a new play therapy room which gives our young clients an opportunity to express their feelings through play and art at their own pace. Play therapy is facilitated by qualified and experienced therapists, who specialise in working with children, as well as in working with sexual violence.

Working with children is obviously a lot different than working with adults, and the language children use cannot always adequately express what they have experienced, due to their lack of understanding around sex and sexual assault. Play therapy creates a non-threatening environment for children to find ways to express what has happened, which does not always require the use of words. It also gives children an opportunity to express themselves without fear of the impact on the therapist, which may not always be possible for children to do with their parents. Naturally, non-abusing parents of children who have been sexually abused are finding ways to cope with their own reaction, to the trauma of hearing their child has been abused, as well as wanting to offer the best support possible for their children.

From experience working alongside survivors of sexual violence, we know that with the right support, children and adults find ways to heal and move forward from the trauma they experienced. We’re keen to support parents as well as other agencies that are also experiencing an increase in demand for support from survivors and, are now taking referrals from parents, social workers and NSPCC. Please get in touch for more information.

Laura, Counselling Coordinator

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