Understanding Healthcare services response to Technology - Assisted Child Sexual Abuse: A Freedom of Information Study

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: The reported rates of technology-assisted child sexual abuse (TA-CSA) have increased in the last decade. It is unclear how services are currently responding to cases of child sexual abuse that involve an online element.

Objective: The aim of this study is to understand the current framework of support offered by National Health Service (NHS) UK Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARC) for cases involving TA-CSA. This includes understanding if a services’ current assessment tools refer to TA-CSA, whether interventions address TA-CSA, and assessing what training for TA-CSA is offered to practitioners.

Setting: Sixty-eight NHS Trusts with either an affiliated CAMHS or SARC.

Method: A Freedom of Information Act request was sent to NHS Trusts. Under this Act, the Trust had 20 working days to respond to the request, which included 6 questions.

Results: 86% Trusts (42 CAMHS and 11 SARC) responded to the request. Of the responses, 54% CAMHS and 55% SARC offer relevant training to practitioners. 59% CAMHS and 28% SARC provide tools for their initial assessment that reference online life. No Trust provided a clear treatment approach for TA-CSA, with 35% CAMHS and 36% SARC responding that treatment would address the mental health needs of the young person.

Conclusions: There is a need for a nationwide understanding of how to clearly define TA-CSA in policies and how to approach TA-CSA during an initial assessment. Further, a consistent approach on how to equip practitioners with tools to support individuals who have experienced TA-CSA is urgently needed.
Original languageEnglish
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2023

Keywords

  • online sexual abuse
  • support services framework

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