Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Inadequate therapeutic services for sexually abused children

The NSPCC and the University of Edinburgh are to be congratulated for their research into therapeutic services for sexually abused children. Confirming what practitioners have known anecdotally for years, the researchers found a low level of this type of provision with "large gaps" between need and availability. Specialist therapeutic services were frequently offerred too late.

Of course it is not just sexual abuse which has a profound psychological impact on the victim. Children who have experienced physical and emotional abuse and neglect suffer too. Psychologists have documented the emotional and behavioural sequellae of all types of abuse ranging from anxiety and depression to post traumatic stress disorder and psychotic illnesses. Studies by Prevent Child Abuse America have estimated that the daily cost of long term mental illness resulting from maltreatment during childhood was nearly $13 million in the USA in 2001.

We are not responding appropriately simply by rescuing children from abusive situations. A humane child protection system must also deal promptly with the consequences of the abuse and do all that can be done to mitigate them. Spending adequate sums of money on therapeutic services for maltreated children is not only the right thing to do; it is also financially prudent if it reduces the need to continue providing mental health care for adult survivors of abuse