DDN Magazine April 2023 DDN April_2023 | Page 10


OUT in the


Normalising the conversation around child sexual abuse is a vital step towards a genuinely trauma-informed treatment system , say Ellie Reed and Nicola Wendel

The Listen , Believe , Affirm project came out of our work with the Centre of Expertise on child sexual abuse ( CSA Centre ). With their support , we carried out a survey across Change Grow Live to understand the level of skills and knowledge around child sexual abuse . We discovered that all of the tools were there – it was just a question of making sure those conversations happen . We needed to ensure that our staff felt comfortable and supported to ask the right questions , and that people were given the space to answer openly .

We had the opportunity to bring something to light that ’ s so rarely spoken about . We ask so many personal questions of people as a part of their support with us – why not ask them if they ’ ve experienced childhood sexual abuse ?
Our first step was to train a series of practice leads to act as our organisational experts on psycho-educative work , myth busting , and how to build confidence and communication with people who ’ ve experienced childhood sexual abuse . Since then we ’ ve continued to build on this work and embed our learnings across
Change Grow Live ’ s services work with so many people who have experienced trauma , including sexual abuse as a child . We know that childhood sexual abuse can be a contributory factor in problematic drug and alcohol use in adulthood , but there ’ s still so much stigma around discussing it openly .
It ’ s something that people may never have been asked about , or even felt comfortable to talk about . There ’ s a lot of fear across professionals – if they ask the wrong question , will they bring something up and make things worse ? the organisation . We ’ ve created accessible learning tools and run national conversation sessions to bring together voices of staff , experts , and people with lived experience of childhood sexual abuse . Through joint working with the Victim Support charity , we ’ ve carried out free online training for more than 800 of our staff and volunteers .
As the work began to take shape , the project became Listen , Believe , Affirm because those are the things we were hearing that people wanted . Not everyone wants extra support or a specific intervention based on their experiences – people just want to be asked the question and be heard , and to have their experience validated . Then they can make the decision that ’ s right for them .
We want to move towards a whole-person approach that considers all the factors in someone ’ s life . It ’ s about creating the conditions where people feel safe and where their substance use is seen as a symptom of trauma instead of a lifestyle choice . We ’ ve had people tell us that they ’ d never really discussed their experiences before , and that their lives might have been very different if someone had just
We ’ ve had people tell us that they ’ d never really discussed their experiences before , and that their lives might have been very different if someone had just asked them .
asked them , and acknowledged what had happened to them .
Normalising the conversation around childhood sexual abuse is an important step in helping people feel comfortable linking past experiences to their current selves . And that process of normalising the conversation includes the conversations we are having as an organisation . By asking the right questions we can empower people to make the changes they want .
Ellie Reed is head of social work and Nicola Wendel is national CSE lead at Change Grow Live
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