Background Research internationally has highlighted the increased vulnerability of disabled children to abuse and the often poor response of services. Very few studies, however, have explored disabled children’s experiences of help-seeking. This paper reports selected findings from a study, commissioned by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, examining the help-seeking experiences of deaf and disabled children who had been abused. The paper focuses on enablers of help-seeking and protection from abuse
Methods The research aimed to better understand the experiences of abused deaf and disabled children and identify enablers and barriers, in terms of disclosure, recognition and response, within the child protection system. Interviews were conducted with 10 children and adults abused in childhood, including some who came into contact with child protection services and some who did not. The definition of a referral having been made and recorded by the relevant statutory services was based on the participant’s recollection; this was not something we were in a position to verify. Our starting point was always to acknowledge the participant’s perception of events. A ‘dialogic approach’ was used to promote participant empowerment in giving informed consent.
Results Four key enablers were identified by participants. These include children’s resistance to abuse, the capacity of adults to detect abuse and respond to disclosures, supportive relationships or circumstances which facilitate disclosure and, for Deaf children, access to registered interpreters.
Conclusions The implications of the findings for policy and practice are highlighted and recommendations include: education and awareness raising amongst practitioners, children and parents; addressing deaf and disabled children’s social isolation; providing comprehensive support services that address the needs of the child holistically; ensuring the voice of the child is heard; routine access to registered interpreters for Deaf children within mainstream and specialist services and measures to address disablism at a local and institutional level.
- child abuse
- prevention of child abuse
- child protection
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