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About our project

The Bluestar Project was designed to explore how we can improve access to therapy services for children and young people who have experienced sexual abuse

Therapy services form a critical part of the response to childhood sexual abuse, but currently, children and young people in the UK face multiple barriers to accessing the support they need from services.

The Bluestar Project is an exploratory research study designed to improve understanding of how access to therapy services for children and young people who have experienced sexual abuse can be improved. The research is sponsored by the Green House and funded by the Home Office Childhood Sexual Abuse Support Services Transformation Fund, which is designed to assist the delivery of the UK government’s Tackling Childhood Sexual Abuse Strategy (2020). The research focuses on two main outcomes: improving access to pre-trial therapies and online support for childhood sexual abuse.

Bluestar Insta (1)

Pre-trial therapy

Our research in this area aimed to understand the barriers and facilitators of pre-trial therapy for childhood sexual abuse. We have created a range of resources for therapy services to guide them through pre-trial therapy processes.

Only 7% of childhood sexual abuse offences are reported to the police at the time the abuse is ongoing. The majority of cases do not progress through the criminal justice system. In 2019/20 just 12% of childhood sexual abuse offences resulted in a charge and 4,226 individuals were prosecuted. Historically, Crown Prosecution Service guidelines have restricted access to therapies for childhood sexual abuse while cases are ongoing (termed “pre-trial”), founded on the view that discussing details about the sexual assault could damage the quality of evidence and lead to a miscarriage of justice. Consequently, children and young people are often without mental health support while their case awaits trial. On average this wait is two years, but for some, this can extend to as long as eight. Childhood sexual abuse can have devastating physical and mental health impacts if children do not have access to support at the right time. There is a clear and urgent need to understand how access to pre-trial therapies can be improved.

Step 1 step-1

We looked at existing research to see what is said about the barriers and facilitators to pre-trial therapy. Results can be found in our scoping review.

Step 2 step-2

We conducted a nationwide survey of therapists involved in the delivery of pre-trial therapy. We also conducted interviews with therapists and professionals from the wider criminal justice response to explore awareness of and attitudes toward pre-trial therapy.

Step 3 step-3

We conducted interviews with children/young people who have experienced abuse and their parents/carers to understand what works for them.

Step 4 step-4

The final phase of the project brought together the various threads into our policy report Keeping Secrets. We have also created a range of best practice resources designed to improve access to pre-trial therapies.

Online support

The aim of our research about online support services for childhood sexual abuse was to understand what works and for whom. We designed a toolkit of resources for therapists that can help guide best practice in this space.

The delivery of therapeutic services for childhood sexual abuse has typically taken place face-to-face between a child and their therapist. When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, some therapy services for children/young people paused their service due to a lack of a suitable delivery method that could facilitate safe, interactive, and age-appropriate access to support online. Others transitioned their services to online spaces in a variety of ways. However, little research evidence exists that can guide commissioners, policymakers, and services about which components of online support is effective for experiences of childhood sexual abuse and what works for whom. We set out to collate the existing evidence base and listen to therapists’ and children/young people’s experiences of and attitudes toward the delivery of online support services.

Step 1 step-1

We looked at existing research to see what the evidence base says about supporting child survivors of sexual abuse online – what therapies and treatments are most helpful, and what children/young people and facilitators find acceptable. Results can be found in our report Realising Remote Recovery

Step 2 step-2

We conducted interviews with therapists and support professionals involved in delivering online support services for childhood sexual abuse across a range of intervention types.

Step 3 step-3

We conducted a survey with children/young people who have accessed online support services for childhood sexual abuse to understand what works for them.

Step 4 step-4

The final phase of the project brought together our research findings into our policy report, Gold Standards and Silver Linings. We also created a toolkit of resources for therapists providing online support.