What help is available to me?

Adult survivors of Child Sexual Abuse

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What help is available to me?


Individual counselling

If you were sexually abused, it is important to know that good counselling can help you overcome problems arising from the abuse. Normally there will be a waiting list to see a counsellor but try and not be too impatient. There are counsellors and counselling services that offer specialist treatment to adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse.

Knowing what to expect in counselling can make it easier for you to attend. Counselling can be thought of in three stages.

The Beginning Stage starts with disclosure and is characterised by issues of trust, self-doubt, and even feelings of shame by some survivors. As a result of the disclosure, you may feel a rush of various emotions that in turn may trigger a variety of defence mechanisms. Further, you may experience vivid recollections of past abusive events. These recollections can flood your consciousness during waking hours or intrude during sleep as nightmares. Important in the beginning stage of counselling then, is actually limiting your disclosure so you avoid overwhelming yourself. In future sessions as you acclimatise to the acknowledgement of the abuse, greater disclosure can proceed. The counsellor will help you with these feelings so you overcome them.

The Middle Stage begins as a continuation of the first. Issues of trust, safety and security will emerge and be reoccurring themes. As counselling progresses and you are more comfortable, your defences will relax and more personal detail of the abusive events may be disclosed. However, you may still find this overwhelming. The role of the counsellor is to normalise these reactions and help you pace the disclosure and exploration of events and thus help you gain control of your own emotions and reactions. You will learn to separate your sense of self from the abuse and the abuser and establish a healthier identity. You will then be in a position to appropriately assess your own interpersonal relationships and make better choices. Further, you will be able to identify and separate your needs and issues from others and choose how to best meet competing needs. Eventually, your symptoms will subside.

The End Stage you may feel gratitude and a reluctance for it to end. Your relationship to the counsellor may have been your healthiest inter-personal experience in that it was non-exploitive. This can give rise to a significant attachment. To ease the ending, you can request a more gradual reduction of meetings or meetings of shorter duration, "check-ins". You can also request the opportunity to reconnect if necessary for a "booster shot".

Group therapy

Group therapy for individuals with a history of childhood sexual abuse may have therapeutic advantages. The secrecy, shame, and stigma that are the legacies of abuse may be more significantly alleviated in a group setting than in individual therapy. Understanding that they are not alone, gaining acceptance from others, experiencing the opportunity to engage in meaningful social relationships, and practising intimacy are but a few of the distinct advantages of membership in a treatment group.

Play therapy

Is a therapeutic approach that makes no effort to control or change the child and is based on the theory that the child's behaviour is at all times caused by the drive for complete self-realisation. In play therapy the child must assume responsibility in the growth process and the therapist concentrates on the difficulties that concern the child and not the therapist. Although some difficulties and pain may be encountered during the growth process, the child will continue to strive towards growth. Whatever the child is feeling is a valid feeling in play therapy. The main objectives of play therapy are to help the child develop a more positive self-concept, become more self-accepting, become more self-reliant, experience a feeling of control, and become more trusting of self.

How can I help myself?

Talk to someone in confidence

Deciding to get help is not an easy decision but one which only you can make. Remember, however, that you are not alone and that many other people who have experienced the same problems as you have made the same decision – and many have been helped as a result.

You could start by talking to someone that you feel confident with and trust. This could be a partner, parent, other relative, friend, colleague, school nurse, teacher, social worker, school/college/university counsellor or youth worker.

Sometimes it's easier to talk to someone you don't know – especially if they've been trained to help. There are many sources of help of which the following are some:

Family doctor

Your family doctor is always a good starting point and he/she is likely if you are agreeable to refer you to a professional counsellor who has specific expertise in this area.

Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS)

CAMHS provide a wide range of services that offer help, support and treatment to children and young people up to the age of 18. Some of these services are based in GP surgeries, health centres or hospitals. Others are based in schools, colleges and universities or in youth centres, drop-in centres for young people and counselling services.

Local health services have different arrangements for the way their teams work. In some places you may be able to talk through your problems with a specially trained nurse. If your local team can't provide the help you need then ask for an assessment by a specialist service.

Specialist counselling services

There are organisations in different parts of the country that provide specialist counselling, information, guidance and support services. If there is not an organisation in your local area then some organisations provide outreach support. See below for contacts.


Use the contacts below for help or to find out more information. Alternatively, if you need someone to talk to about how you're feeling, call Breathing Space on 0800 83 85 87 between 6pm and 2am (Mon-Thurs) or 24 hrs at the weekend. Remember your call is confidential and free.

  • Moira Anderson Foundation Supports victims of abuse and provides help through the legal process. Counselling is provided across Scotland. 01236 602 890 Email: info@moiraanderson.org 
  • Sandyford Initiative (Thrive)Thrive is a Glasgow-based counselling and support service for non-offending adult male survivors of childhood sexual abuse which is part of the Sandyford Initative. 
    0141 211 8133 www.sandyford.org
  • Rape Crisis Scotland A service for those who have been raped or sexually abused.
    46 Bath Street, Glasgow, G2 1HG. 0141 331 4180 Email: info@rapecrisisscotland.org.uk
    Rape Crisis Scotland Helpline: 08088 01 03 02 (free number) every day, 6pm to midnight
  • Victim Support Scotland Provides free and confidential emotional and practical assistance and information to victims, witnesses and others affected by crime. The service is provided by volunteers through a network of community based victim and youth justice services and court based witness services.
    Email: info@victimsupportsco.co.uk www.victimsupportsco.co.uk
    Victim Support Scotland Helpline: 0845 603 9213
  • Survivors UK This London-based service supports and provides resources for men who have experienced any form of sexual violence.
    Email: info@survivorsuk.org
    Helpline: 0845 122 1201 Mon and Tues 7-9.30pm and Thurs 12-2:30pm. 

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