CHILDREN and young people in Wales are turning to online spaces and friends rather than to the police, education establishments, and employers for support.

A report published by Welsh Women's Aid revealed that, in a survey of 13 to 25-year-olds, 80 per cent of participants stated that they would turn to the internet-including to chatrooms, helplines, and online gaming platforms-in times of difficulty, while none of the participants said they would personally seek support from the police. The report was developed with the support of the Wales Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Support Hub.

The report I Trust Them comes as Wales prepares for the 2022 implementation of mandatory Relationships and Sexual Education (RSE). Welsh Women's Aid believes that the success of RSE and the prevention of violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence that underpins it, will partly lie in understanding the spaces and figures within communities across Wales that children and young people identify as sources of support and 'resilience'.

Welsh Women's Aid prevention support officer, Heddwen Daniels said, the whole community approaches to prevention can be effective as survivors are likely to disclose abuse or violence to people within their community before accessing official services, but these approaches are often designed from an adult perspective - where children and young people seek support and the barriers that they face to accessing it will be different.


She said: "It is vital that we invest time, resources and empathy into understanding what young people from all backgrounds need to feel safe and supported."

The report has several illuminating findings, most alarmingly that key institutions are not considered accessible, desirable, or trustworthy places to seek support by many young people.

None of the participants said they would seek support from the police and reflecting on their personal experiences, none of the respondents aged 16-25 said that the police had been helpful. Black and minority young people were nearly half as likely as their white British counterparts to identify the police as a potential source of support.

Responses around education were also concerning; 50 per cent of respondents who reflected on their experiences within the survey stated that education professionals had been unhelpful. Overall, 43 per cent of respondents said that they had not been helped when they approached teachers for support. The survey revealed that the most common time young people experienced abuse or otherwise difficult times was between ages 11-16, this is particularly unsettling given the sexual harassment and abuse revelations from the everyone's invited scheme, with more than 90 schools in Wales named on the website.

Online spaces and friends were identified as important sources of 'resilience'. The report highlights that the supportive qualities most valued by young people were getting advice, trust, feeling safe, and not being judged. It also suggests, that with the right support, focusing on the future gave many children and young people who experience violence and abuse strength and resilience.

Welsh Women's Aid chief executive Sara Kirkpatrick said: "Ensuring that all children and young people get the right support at the earliest opportunity is crucial to preventing violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence. Our findings show that a lack of understanding of abuse, combined with a pervasive culture of victim blaming within key institutions are preventing young people across Wales from reaching out to the establishments and people that they should have confidence in to protect them.

"We must centre young people's voices and experiences. This means ensuring that specialist support and advice services are equipped and sustainably funded to understand and support young people through those online communities that they have personally identified as places they are likely to turn to."

Jo Hopkins, director of the adverse childhood experiences support hub in Wales, who supported this project said: "Understanding where children and young people seek support and gain resilience from is vital to ensuring support can be tailored to their needs. This research shows the importance of friends, hobbies and online spaces, and that there is less trust in public services, particularly from black and minoritised children and young people. This report amplifies children and young people's voices, and they must be heard so that their needs can be met within the community and by services."

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “Any form of violence or sexual abuse is totally unacceptable and will not be tolerated. We are committed to working with safeguarding partners to do everything we can to prevent and tackle child abuse, in all its forms, and to support children who have been subjected to such abuse.

“Our national action plan sets out clear actions to prevent child sexual abuse, to protect children at risk and to support abused children. We have introduced a number of measures to ensure the safety of children and young people, and raising children and young people’s awareness of equality, respect, consent and support at the earliest opportunity plays a crucial role.

“We would urge anyone experiencing any form of violence or domestic abuse to seek out the help and support which is available across Wales. Our Live Fear Free helpline is available 24/7.”

Welsh Government are encouraging during the Covid outbreak they are asking people to look out for one another.

Their guidelines on reporting suspected abuse, harm or neglect (safeguarding) are:

  • To report a safeguarding concern about a young person up to the age of 18 years
  • If you’re worried about a child or young person in your family or community, please call 101.
  • Alternatively you can contact social services in your area. The contact information is available via the local safeguarding boards. Gwent's board is called Gwent Safeguarding Children Board.
  • Report a safeguarding concern about a person aged over 18 years
  • If you’re worried about an adult in your family or community, please call 101.
  • Alternatively you can contact social services in your area. The contact information is available via the local safeguarding boards, Gwent's is Gwent Safeguarding Adults Board.