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4.11.4 Adults who Disclose Childhood Sexual Abuse


In November 2016, information was added in to Section 2, Response:
‘If the alleged perpetrator is known to currently have contact with children, then in addition this needs to be reported to Children’s Social Care where the alleged perpetrator lives and the LADO where the alleged perpetrator works’.


  1. Significance
  2. Response

1. Significance

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.

2. Response

As soon as it is apparent that an adult is revealing childhood abuse, the member of staff must record what is said by the adult and the responses given by the staff member; and discuss with the individual the next steps/available options. A record of all conversations, (including 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.

The adult making the disclosure should be asked whether they want a police investigation and should be advised of the Police Public Protection Investigation Unit (PPIU)'s role in investigating matters of abuse with adults who are vulnerable as a result of mental health or learning difficulties. 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. The first course of action should be to discuss concerns within clinical teams; line management or further escalation to safeguarding leads before making disclosure to the police or children’s services without adult consent.

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. When a disclosure of historical childhood sexual abuse occurs, practitioners should be guided by best practice principles of working in a collaborative way and wherever possible, with the explicit consent of the service user. There may be circumstances when it is deemed necessary to disclose without the consent of a service user; however this should not be a unilateral individual practitioner’s decision.

Where the alleged perpetrator can be identified because details such as name, date of birth/age, address etc are known, this information should be reported to the police. If the alleged perpetrator is known to currently have contact with children, then in addition this needs to be reported to Children’s Social Care where the alleged perpetrator lives and the LADO where the alleged perpetrator works.

The Police must be informed about allegations of a crime at the earliest opportunity. Whether police become involved in an investigation will depend of a number of factors including the victim's wishes and the public interest.

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

Consideration must be given to the therapeutic needs of the adult and 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 of a Vulnerable Adult or Adult At Risk and whether a referral to the Adult Social Care Services under the Safeguarding Adults Procedures is required.