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Inquiry urges more open conversation about child sexual abuse

19 February 2019

New research from the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has found over half of victims and survivors who came forward to the Inquiry did not report that they were being sexually abused at the time it was happening.

More than 2,500 victims and survivors of child sexual abuse have now shared their experiences with the Inquiry’s Truth Project. Of these, 1,697 personal accounts have been analysed for research purposes.

Over half of those who came forward (55%) reported that they did not tell anyone about the abuse at the time it was happening. Under one in ten (8%) disclosed their abuse for the first time when they spoke to the Truth Project.

The figures paint a vivid picture, showing just how vulnerable all children are at the time of abuse. 11% of Truth Project participants were under four years old when the abuse started, and a further third (31%) were between 4-7 years old when it began.

Over half of all survivors reported other forms of abuse to the Inquiry. Physical abuse, such as being choked, punched or dragged by the hair, was most commonly disclosed (32%) by survivors at the Truth Project. Psychological abuse, including fear, was the next most common form of abuse recounted (29%).

Many told the Inquiry that the abuse had a detrimental impact on all aspects of their lives - taking a toll on their mental and physical health, relationships, education and employment prospects:

  • 86% of survivors told the Truth Project that the abuse had a negative impact on their mental health, with 39% experiencing depression following the abuse.

  • Over half (51%) reported that the abuse had damaged their relationships with others, and a third (34%) reported trust and intimacy issues.

  • 45% said that the abuse had a negative impact on their education and employment and almost one fifth (17%) reported being unhappy at school.

  • 7% of girls became pregnant as a direct result of being sexually abused and one in 10 survivors (10%) reported a physical injury.

These statistics highlight the urgent need for society to have more open conversations about child sexual abuse.

The Inquiry is also today publishing new experiences of child sexual abuse from the Truth Project, as part of the first ever anthology dedicated to survivor experiences in England and Wales. In the accounts, victims and survivors speak about the difficulties they faced coming forward.

Peter describes his school “brushing abuse under the carpet”. Stacey reports being branded a “scheming little Lolita” by a high court judge when giving evidence about her uncle. Jessica was told that ‘‘people like you’’ do not get justice by those in authority.

The Inquiry is running a national campaign to raise awareness of the Truth Project, to ensure all survivors  of child sexual abuse have the opportunity to come forward. At the Truth Project, survivors can share their experiences anonymously with the Inquiry and put forward recommendations for change to keep children safe in future.

Dru Sharpling, Head of the Truth Project said:

“These statistics illustrate just how vulnerable children are to sexual abuse, and the devastating and often life long impact it can have.

“The Truth Project was set up to hear, and learn from survivors of child sexual abuse. It is important that society has a more open conversation if we are to better protect children in future.”

VSCP member Chris Tuck said:

“Like many of the survivors who have come forward to the Truth Project, I too often struggled with the impact of the abuse. School was tough, and I always found it difficult to concentrate. The abuse still haunts me, and now I take great care to look after my mental well being.

"I helped to set up the Truth Project with other survivors so that we can be heard, and so that society can begin to understand how the abuse has shaped our lives."


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