Information for Professionals Supporting Adults Recovering from Childhood Sexual Abuse

When I started my PhD I wanted my research primarily to be aimed at people who had experienced childhood sexual abuse. This was because so much previous research was created for professionals. However, the data I gathered does have implications for all sorts of professionals; people working in the law, health, social work, community and voluntary sectors. I have created a handout that you can download here.

The main messages are:

1) Be kind. Participants talked about important interactions with professionals that really changed their lives for the better. It is an opportunity for you to positively impact someone’s life.

2) Be trauma and chronic post traumatic stress disorder (cPTSD) aware. Research suggests that up to 85% of adults who experienced childhood sexual abuse suffer from cPTSD. So it makes sense to assume that people have it, rather than that they do not.

3) Be aware of damaging discourses and don’t perpetuate them. People who have been abused are infantalised and viewed as incapable. They can also be affected by stigma, created by theories such as the ‘cycle of abuse.’

4) In many ways recovering is the opposite of being abused. It is about reclaiming rights, voice, choices and bodily autonomy. Employ the abused person’s personal strengths and those in the networks around them to assist in their recovering.


Cunnington, C. (2020) Adults recovering from Childhood Sexual Abuse: A Salutogenic Approach. PhD Thesis. University of Sheffield, Sheffield.

Johnson, D. M., Pike, J. L. and Chard, K. M. (2001) ‘Factors predicting PTSD, depression, and dissociative severity in female treatment-seeking childhood sexual abuse survivors’, Child Abuse and Neglect, 25(1), pp. 179–198.

Herman, J. L. (1992) Trauma and Recovery. New York: Basic Books.

Rodriguez, N. et al. (1996) ‘Posttraumatic stress disorder in a clinical sample of adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse’, Child Abuse and Neglect, 20(10), pp. 943–952.

Artwork: The Touch of Comfort by Carmel Couchi. Photo credit: George Eliot Hospital Chapel.

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