Summary: This paper presents the findings of a study examining adult disclosures of childhood sexual abuse to child protection social work services in the Republic of Ireland. Limited literature indicates that adults can have negative experiences when disclosing childhood abuse; this is primarily owing to a lack of training, policy and guidance for practitioners, and legal complexities regarding allegations of abuse. This study used a biographic-narrative interpretive method (BNIM) to gather the experiences of adults who engaged with child protection social work services. The findings were analysed using both BNIM panel analysis and open, axial and selective coding. Six main themes were identified, and the findings are discussed under three headings: (1) the system as a barrier presents the various influences that acted as barriers for adults coming forward to disclose; (2) issues of power examines the influence of power from the time of abuse throughout the adults’ life courses and their interactions with services; and (3) the system as a facilitator presents practice and policy recommendations based on participants’ narratives and the wider research literature. Implications for child protection practice in this extremely sensitive and sometimes controversial area are considered. © 2021 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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Child Abuse Review (2021)
Published online in Wiley Online Library