#ItsNotOK: Responding to disclosures of sexual abuse

Yehudis Goldsobel
Yehudis Goldsobel

We had a call from a classroom assistant working in a Jewish school. The individual was concerned that they were untrained vis a vis what would be best practice response to a six-year-old student’s disclosure in a class setting. The child in question had drawn a family picture with great focus and detail on the genitalia. The member of staff had not encountered this before and felt they had let the child down by not having the correct tools to respond as quickly as she would have liked.

Instead, it was reported to their line manager and the child was not spoken to for almost three months. Three months to a child of six is a long time. Three months holding on to a heavy secret. Three months spending every hour using energy trying to understand what had happened.

We worked with this staff member and the child’s parents to find the right approach and therapy. After a few sessions the child disclosed what an older cousin had done to them at a family party. We were then able to work with the cousin—also a child—and their family, to ensure this cycle of sexual abuse was stopped.

Research by the NSPCC found that 80% of children did try to tell someone about abuse they were experiencing, but there was no satisfactory response or follow up. We also know children will only try a few times before giving up; if they don’t succeed in finding someone they will keep that secret for a very long time. The average is 22 years, before trying again. This is not ok.

A common complaint from those that approach Migdal Emunah, is their lack of expertise in this area and by extension the inappropriate responses that inevitably occur. This isn’t only coming from teachers. This is also coming from victims. They are saying that the people they trust just aren’t equipped to help them. We’ve been working hard solving these two issues and our  support covers anything from deciding whether to report or working with statutory services.Our time spent sharing information and breaking down barriers ensures that every victim in our community gets the most appropriate response via collaborative work with other agencies and our new Independent Sexual Violence Advisor.

Our goal is that anyone disclosing abuse has the best professional, independent and most of all seamless support. Migdal Emunah train professionals and organisations because we know that disclosures can happen at any time, in any shape or form, and it is important that we are able to catch them as they happen. Experience has taught me there is never one model for disclosures and this must be considered for each organisation.

With the greatest appreciation to generous donors from the community, we are now able to commit to training two additional Independent Sexual Violence Advisor’s (ISVA’s).

This week (4th – 10th February) is the fourth annual Sexual Abuse & Sexual Violence Awareness Week. The purpose is to generate discussion about how sexual abuse and sexual violence is never ok, to empower victims, and send out a clear message that the UK collectively will be saying ‘It’s Not Ok’

We too have been saying #itsnotok—#itsnotok to work with children & young people and not know how to respond and handle disclosures of abuse.



About the Author
Yehudis Goldsobel is the Chief Executive of Migdal Emunah & Founder of the UKs Sexual Abuse & Sexual Violence Awareness Week. She is co-chair of the Met Police Independent Advisory Group for Rape and Serious Sexual Offences and is currently doing her Master's at Goldsmiths University in Understanding Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse.
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