Skip to content
Company Logo
Adults who Disclose Childhood Sexual Abuse

Adults who Disclose Childhood Sexual Abuse

Allegations of historical child abuse by an adult should be responded to robustly because:

  • There is a significant likelihood that a person who abused a child(ren) in the past will have continued and may still be doing so;
  • Criminal prosecution remains a possibility if sufficient evidence can be carefully collated.

This procedure applies to all staff members, whether paid or voluntary.

When it becomes apparent that an adult is revealing childhood abuse the staff member must, in the context of an empathic and sensitive approach ask whether they want a police investigation and should be advised of the Police’s role in investigating matters of abuse with adults who are vulnerable as a result of mental health, learning difficulties or any other vulnerabilities. Whether police become involved in an investigation will depend of a number of factors including the victim's wishes and the public interest.

The staff member must also make it clear that they have a duty to safeguard children or adults at risk. Explaining that when there is sufficient identifying information for child/ren or the perpetrator, this will be shared with children’s social care and or/ police in an effort to keep others safe.

The member of staff must record:

  1. What is said by the adult, recording the disclosure using the person’s words (this account could be used as evidence in future if required);
  2. The response given by the staff member; and
  3. Discuss with the individual the next steps/available options.

The timings, the setting, those present, as well as what was said by all parties) and actions must be kept. All records must be dated and the authorship made clear by a legible signature or name.

Professionals should be aware that if the person reports matters to the police, any notes taken by the professional may be subject to disclosure and/or a witness statement required. This ‘evidence of first complaint’ is an important evidential issue for sex abuse cases. It is critical to handle these situations as sensitively as possible.

Where necessary, the staff member can seek guidance and support from clinical teams; line management or from safeguarding leads before making disclosure to the police or children’s services.

If possible, the member of staff to whom the disclosure is made should establish if the adult is aware of the alleged perpetrator's recent or current whereabouts and whether they have any contact with children. The member of staff to whom the disclosure is made should aim to establish:

  1. The alleged perpetrator's recent or current whereabouts and request their identifying details i.e. name, date of birth/ age, address;
  2. Whether they live with, have contact with children, or work with children (in a paid or voluntary capacity) - requesting the identifying details of any known children i.e. name, DOB/ age, address;
  3. If the perpetrator works with children, the staff member should try and establish the details of their employment i.e. role and employer/ address.

Remember – only children’s social care and/ or the police can investigate allegations. The role of other agencies is to identify risk and refer this for further investigation.

When a child/ children can be identified this must be referred to Children’s Social Care Services in:

  1. The area in which the known child/ren live and also;
  2. The area in which the perpetrator lives to establish if there are other children at risk.

Children's Social Care must initiate a Section 47 Enquiry if the alleged perpetrator is known to be caring for, or has access to children.

Where the alleged perpetrator is known to work with children (in a paid or voluntary capacity) this must be passed onto the LADO in the area where the perpetrator works.

When it is unknown or unclear whether the perpetrator has access to children, contact:

  1. Children’s Social Care where the perpetrator lives to check whether they or their family are known, and if is there is any contact with children?
  2. Police to provide information about the perpetrator.

It is important to remember that seemingly insignificant bits of information might be really important to any future investigation.

Consideration must be given to the therapeutic needs of the adult, and:

  1. Information provided about how to access therapeutic support e.g. GP, primary care psychology etc. and
  2. Reassurance given that all reasonable efforts will be made to look into what they have reported.

Though it will be too late to consider forensic issues, St Mary’s SARC can still offer counselling but only where the police undertake an investigation. Irrespective of whether the adult disclosing wishes the Police to investigate or not, ‘Rape Crisis’ can offer practical and emotional support to all women and girls who have experienced sexual violence of any kind at any time in their lives. Survivors UK can offer the same services for men and boys. Alternatively Victim Support’s local victim care team can be reached on 0845 456 8800.

Consideration should also be given as to whether the person concerned comes within the definition Adult At Risk and whether a referral to the Adult Social Care Services under Safeguarding Adults Procedures is required.

Last Updated: January 8, 2024