Recovery from abuse is always possible at any stage in life. Find out how you can access support that is right for you.
Call our free, confidential support line:
0808 801 0331
Monday to Thursday: 10am – 9pm
Friday: 10am – 6pm
Saturday and Sunday – Closed
Need to talk? Call our support line, free from landlines or mobiles.
UPDATE – 26 March 2020. Due to coronavirus (COVID-19) many organisations will be struggling to offer their usual services. We have some helpful advice on self-care on our coronvirus page, please have a read Feeling safe during coronavirus (COVID-19)
Support services for adult survivors of any type of childhood abuse and neglect are available but are not always easy to find or access. Waiting lists are common, both in the NHS and voluntary sector. Some services are focused on sexual abuse and do not specifically address physical or emotional abuse or neglect.
However, knowledge about the impact of child abuse later in life and about trauma-informed practice is gradually growing and we are seeing improvements in many areas.
Think about what it is you really need right now. It doesn’t have to be (just) talking to a counsellor or therapist. Support can come in many different forms and doesn’t necessarily have to start with counselling. Learning about how abuse affects our brain and body is hugely empowering, while peer support groups can help you feel less isolated and address some of the difficulties that many survivors struggle with at any stage of their recovery. We also know that learning to feel safe in your body — for example through yoga, self-defense classes, trauma-release exercises (TRE), dance or other complementary therapies — are highly effective ways to support recovery from trauma.
This page is aimed at helping you understand your options of finding support in the voluntary, statutory and private sectors in the UK.
We recommend that when contacting a provider you first ask them to explain their policy on confidentiality. The NHS or other statutory providers are more likely to breach confidentiality without your consent and report to the police if your disclosure of abuse suggests in any way that your abuser/s still poses risk to a child or vulnerable adult.
Charities which are set up specifically to serve survivors of abuse usually offer services free of charge or in line with your ability to pay. Their staff are more likely to have a deep understanding of the impact of abuse and some are survivor-led organisations. Survivors often report that they feel listened to, believed and better served when engaging with voluntary sector organisations.
Voluntary sector organisations can often be more flexible than the NHS in their approaches to recovery. However, they are less regulated than the public or private sector and rely heavily on grant funding, which means service provision can be inconsistent.
The following voluntary sector organisations and resources offer direct services and/or can help you find support near you:
The Survivors Trust
The Survivors Trust is a national umbrella agency for over 130 specialist rape and sexual abuse support services throughout the UK and Ireland, providing support and counselling for adults, young people and children who have experienced rape, sexual abuse or sexual exploitation at any time in their lives. The Survivors Trust website offers a directory of these organisations, listed by location. Find members of the Survivors Trust in your area
Rape Crisis England & Wales
Rape Crisis England & Wales is a national charity and the umbrella body for a network of independent member Rape Crisis Centres. The centres offer a range of support, advocacy, counselling and information to people who have experienced sexual violence at any time in their lives. Many are women-only safe spaces. Some also provide services for male sexual violence survivors. Find your nearest Rape Crisis Centre and details of the services it offers
Rape Crisis Scotland
Local rape crisis centres provide emotional and practical support, information and advocacy to anyone affected by sexual violence. The abuse may have happened recently or in the past. They offer a safe environment where you can talk freely and in confidence about what has happened. Find your nearest Rape Crisis Centre and details of the services it offers
Survivors Pathway (South West England)
The Survivor Pathway website is an online resource for anyone wanting to find specialist sexual violence support services available in the South West. It was created and implemented by Somerset and Avon Rape and Sexual Abuse Support (SARSAS), recognising the need for an integrated online resource for all sexual violence support services for the local area.
Nexus Northern Ireland
Nexus NI offer services and support to people who have been affected by sexual violence in any form and at any time in their life, and its services are delivered across Northern Ireland. Click here to access services offered by Nexus NI
The national mental health charity Mind has 140 local independent branches which provide a range of services such as talking therapies, crisis helplines, drop-in centres, employment and training schemes, counselling and befriending. Find your local Mind branch and details of the services it offers.
If the prospect of speaking with someone over the phone or face-to-face is too overwhelming, HAVOCA offers web-based support, friendship and guidance to any adult whose life has been affected by child abuse. It’s website also hosts a secure online forum for survivors to connect with and learn from each other. Click here to visit HAVOCA.
Future Pathways, Scotland
Future Pathways (FP) offers support to people who were abused or neglected as children while they were living in a residential setting in Scotland, such as a care home, boarding school, hospital, foster care or young offenders’ institute. Future Pathways is supported by funding from the Scottish Government and is managed by a group of voluntary sector organisations that make up the Future Pathways Alliance. Its Services include counselling, psychological trauma support, community activities, housing and benefit advice, access to records and funding for education. These services are available even if the survivor no longer lives in Scotland. Click here to visit Future Pathways
The NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) is a charity campaigning and working in child protection in the United Kingdom and Channel Islands. Anyone who is concerned that a child is being abused or neglected can call the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000 for guidance on what to do. NSPCC – What to do if you suspect child abuse
The NHS offers free services nationwide and is best placed to support you when you are in crisis – that is, if you pose a risk to yourself or others.
However, abuse survivors who do not fall into this category can face long waiting times to access mostly time-limited therapies. Moreover, specialist knowledge about the impact of abuse and trauma-informed practice varies widely across departments and locations.
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) is becoming more widely available on the NHS. It is most effective in treating one-off or short-term trauma resulting in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). However it is less effective when a person was abused over a long period of time and from a young age, which typically leads to symptoms grouped as Complex PTSD. Find out more about EMDR or NHS treatment suggestions for Complex PTSD.
Even if you had negative experiences with the NHS in the past, we always recommend that you try again to find the right person to work with. Your first access point will typically be your GP or IAPT (Improved Access to Psychological Therapy) services. Review NHS Choices for more information.
Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARCS)
Sexual assault referral centres offer medical, practical and emotional support to anyone who has been sexually assaulted or raped. Some SARCs work with non-recent sexual violence cases, but others do not. The local centres are designed to be comfortable and multi-functioning and employ specially trained doctors and counsellors.
When contacting SARCs, you don’t have to report the assault to police if you don’t want to. However, if you are considering reporting the abuse you suffered to the police, SARCs can arrange for you to have an informal talk with a specially trained police officer who can explain what’s involved. Find out more about SARCs.
Therapists and counsellors
If you can afford to pay for private therapy, there are many good therapists and counsellors who have been specially trained in addressing childhood abuse and trauma. Many offer a sliding scale of charges in line with your ability to pay.
It is always worth reaching out to a therapist and ask whether they they offer sliding scale or pay-what-you-can charges.
We cannot recommend individual therapists (because only you can decide who is right for you), but below are the main national organisations that represent accredited therapists and counsellors. Their websites include directories of practitioners and allow you to filter your search for someone who has experience working with abuse survivors.
You may not find the right person in your first attempt or you may have had negative experiences in the past. We encourage you to try again until you find someone you can trust and work with.
• The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP)
• UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP)
• The National Counselling Society (NCS)
• The Echo Society has counsellors with expertise in narcissistic abuse
• PODS lists counsellors who support people who have suffered trauma and developed a dissociative disorder
• The Counselling Directory advertises counsellors and psychotherapists, if they are registered with an overseeing professional body. It has a list of counsellors who can work over Skype.