New research from the University of Bedfordshire and AYPH highlights that an experience of sexual abuse can have particular repercussions for adolescents. Understanding the intersection of adolescent development and sexual abuse trauma can help services and professionals to appreciate what young people are going through, why they might respond the ways they do, and how best we can help.

There is a recognised gap in knowledge and understanding about how the mental health and emotional wellbeing of young people are affected by experiences of sexual abuse during adolescence. The unique nature of adolescence means that young people experiencing sexual abuse in this phase of life may have different needs to younger children or adults. We need to know better – from them – about what these are and find ways of helping that are sensitive to the impacts of sexual abuse in this life stage and the demands of their everyday lives.

A suite of resources has just been launched from the Learning from the Experts study, led by the University of Bedfordshire’s Safer Young Lives Research Centre, in partnership with the Association for Young People’s Health. Participation of young people with lived experience was at the heart of the research. These include a full research report, an executive summary, and a podcast interview with the study authors. We’re also pleased to be launching a set of letters that young people from the project have written explaining their perspective, and an animation based on the messages from these.

To see all the project resources

Drawing out the key messages from the literature review, workshops and interviews highlight the importance of an adolescent specific response that takes their particular life stage into account. Supporting adolescents has to be different to supporting younger children. Young people in their teens are more likely to feel blamed by others, and also often say that the responses to the abuse are sometimes as traumatising as the abuse itself. Adolescence offers huge opportunities and potential for change, but can also make young people feel very vulnerable and unsupported. Holistic, understanding and sensitive support from all agencies (youth and social work, criminal justice, education and others) is critical for successful recovery.

For more information about the project email