Sunday, 3 November 2013

The Difficulties of Disclosure

Some interesting and important research has recently been published by the NSPCC [1]. Sixty young adults (aged 18-24 years), who had experienced different type of serious maltreatment during childhood, were interviewed about their experiences of disclosure.

It emerged that more than 80% had tried to disclose the abuse to someone, but many disclosures went unrecognised or were misunderstood. Often disclosures were “… dismissed, played down or ignored”. 90% of the young people had had “… negative experiences of disclosure”, mostly when the people they had disclosed to had failed to respond appropriately.

The young people said that they wanted “… someone to notice that something was wrong”. They said it would have been helpful to have been asked direct questions. They said that professionals should investigate “… sensitively but thoroughly”. They said that they wanted to be kept informed about what was happening.

Not only does this research point to an area of practice in which there is a high probability of things going wrong – children disclosing abuse and not being heard – it also points to ways in which practice can be improved to reduce the chances of abused and neglected children going unheard.

I think this is a really useful piece of research. I think the key phrases are: ‘direct questions’, ‘sensitively but thoroughly’ and ‘kept informed about what is happening’. Training focused on these areas will help practitioners to help more children to disclose.

[1] Allnock, D. and Miller, P. (2013) No one noticed, no one heard: a study of disclosures of childhood abuse. London: NSPCC. Available at: