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From pain to power

From pain to power: a charter for organisations engaging abuse survivors in projects, research and service development

Survivors voice

In collaboration with the peer-led organisation Survivors’ Voices, researchers from King’s School of Life Course Sciences have launched a charter to guide organisations and individuals to safely and meaningfully engage abuse survivors in health and social care research.

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) estimates that one in twenty children experience sexual abuse and one in fourteen experience physical abuse. Almost one in ten adults report experiencing or witnessing psychological, physical or sexual abuse during childhood but a third tell nobody at the time.

Childhood abuse is a recognised risk factor in the causes of many common mental health conditions. Studies have shown that cumulative 'adverse childhood experiences' also significantly increase the risks of physical ill health in later life.

Launching the Charter at King’s and the Haven’s Sexual Violence Research Day, Concetta Perôt, Co-founder & Director of Survivors’ Voices and Associate Researcher at King’s (Section of Women’s Mental Health) said:

Genuine patient and public involvement in research that engages people who have experienced abuse is in its infancy. It is rarely survivor-led or co-produced. What little research there is that directly consults survivors can be ineffective at engaging and eliciting data due to the way it is conducted and it can even cause harm, despite good intentions. We aim to address this through our partnership with King’s and support from the Wellcome Trust.– Concetta Perôt

The Charter has been designed and implemented entirely by survivors of abuse. It guides researchers and organisations through the principles and practicalities of good survivor engagement. The authors aim to enable active, safe and meaningful involvement of abuse survivors in: research, service development, projects, policy and practice standards, events, training and conferences.

Susan Bewley, Professor (emeritus) of Obstetrics & Women's Health at King’s, said:

Survivors of abuse face unique health and social care challenges. These are impossible to address without proper consultation and genuine engagement. Too often their voices are ignored so changes in policy and support services do not effectively meet their needs. This Charter marks a shift toward co-produced research and collaborative service development. I encourage all my colleagues to use it.– Professor Susan Bewley

The Charter is being adopted by King’s College Hospital to inform how survivors' views are incorporated into service development and research carried out at the Havens’ Sexual Assault Referral Centres. The Charter is aimed at any individual or organisation interacting with survivors of abuse, including those who may not have disclosed their experiences or do not feel safe enough yet to do so.

People are being invited to download the Charter for free and consider how they can use it to increase meaningful engagement and involvement of abuse survivors in their work.