New Leeds Visible partnership offers help to abuse survivors

Organisations across Leeds have formed a new partnership to help adult survivors of child sexual abuse.

Public awareness of child sexual abuse and the impact it has on the lives of victims, their families and communities has increased in recent years. The new Leeds Visible partnership aims to help employers and service providers to take action. Chaired by Leeds City Council working with health organisations, charities and the Police and Crime Commissioner, the partnership brings together a wide range of organisations, to help adults abused as children.

Survivors of child abuse have been involved in developing the partnership and in producing advice and guidance for organisations wanting to make service improvements and provide support to survivors. The aim is for frontline workers to be more confident and competent to meet the needs of people sexually abused as children and for service providers to have the knowledge, workforce and resources to meet their needs.

Councillor Rebecca Charlwood, Leeds City Council executive member for health and wellbeing, said:
“We know child sexual abuse is terrible for anyone to experience and can have a lifelong impact. I’m proud Leeds City Council is at the heart of this partnership which is providing such important proactive support for organisations, helping them recognise the experiences and needs of adults who have survived abuse and take actions to help.

“By working closely with people who have survived abuse, with specialists and with people in organisations delivering a broad range of front line services to the public, Visible can make an important difference to lives across the city in the future.”

Police and Crime Commissioner for West Yorkshire, Mark Burns-Williamson OBE, said: “The impact of child sexual abuse is devastating on individuals, families and communities and we know the effect on survivors is long lasting which can invade every aspect of a person’s life.

“Therefore I really welcome the work of the Leeds Visible project and would encourage all organisations to adopt its policy statement and look to recognise and respond to survivors to help improve their wellbeing and lives.

“We must do all we can to prevent such abuses taking place but, where they have, collectively we must do all we can to support those victims and survivors, wherever they are on the journey of recovery.”

Tessa Denham, CEO Women’s Counselling and Therapy Service, host agency of Visible said: “Visible is a powerful catalyst to inspire city leaders to take action together to make a difference to survivors whose needs have not been recognised, often for decades since they were children. Signing up and adopting the Policy Statement is the first step to ensure the solutions includes everyone.”

Sharon Prince, Consultant Clinical Psychologist at Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and deputy chair of the Visible Project said: “I’ve worked with people with complex mental health needs for over 25 years. I would say the majority of these people have experienced sexual abuse as children or some other form of childhood trauma.

“It affects every area of people’s lives. It leads to victimisation, depression, anxiety and even psychosis.

“Whilst survivors of this trauma can recover well with the right support, we need to do more to tackle the causes early on and not treat the symptoms later in life when the damage can be profound.

“I want child sexual abuse to become more of a public health issue that we all take seriously. It should be everybody’s business to tackle it. You don’t have to be a professional to take time to listen to someone and to bear witness to their experience with compassion, empathy and without judgement.

“That’s why I’m so passionate about the Visible Project –which is about bringing the impact of child sexual abuse and the profoundly damaging effect it has on people’s lives into the public consciousness.”

Leeds practitioners said they needed information and training to help them respond effectively to survivors of child sexual abuse. Visible is about providing organisations with the framework, support and resources to do this; it can be easily accessed online to allow them to sign up to the policy statement and download the action plan.

Visit www.visibleproject.org.uk

Awareness and understanding of child sexual abuse and exploitation has increased across the UK since the Jimmy Savile investigations (2012) and the Rotherham Jay Inquiry (2013). Extensive media attention has focussed on CSA cases in care homes, religious institutions and football clubs.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (est. 2014) is investigating whether public bodies and other non-state institutions in England and Wales have taken seriously their responsibility to protect children from sexual abuse. An interim report highlighting wide ranging and enduring impacts of CSA and emerging themes from the Inquiry was published in April 2018.

The Centre of Expertise on CSA, funded by the Home Office, was established in 2017 to help bring about significant and system wide change in how child sexual abuse is responded to locally and nationally. The Centre has produced important reports on the scale and nature of child sexual abuse, local commissioning practice and intra-familial child sexual abuse.

Leeds Involving People
Leeds Involving People (LIP) represents the independent voice of people through the promotion of effective involvement. In 2016 Visible established the Leadership Reference Group (supported by LIP), whose members have all experienced child sexual abuse and who want to inform and influence the improvement of services in Leeds.

Leeds Visible Steering Group Partners

  • NHS Leeds Clinical Commissioning Group
    • Leeds City Council
    • Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust
    • Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner West Yorkshire
    • Leeds and York Partnership Foundation Trust
    • Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust
    • Forum Central the collective voice for the health & social care third sector in Leeds
    • Leeds Survivor Led Crisis Service
    • Basis Yorkshire
    • Forward Leeds
    • Women’s Counselling and Therapy Service
    • Leeds Involving People