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IICSA published its final Report in October 2022. This website was last updated in January 2023.

IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

The Report of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Final report

D.2: “The person who sexually abused me”

2. Victims and survivors said that there is no typical sexual abuser. One child challenged common assumptions: perpetrators “are portrayed as evil, dirty villains and in reality they look like everyone else”.[1] Melvin said: “sometimes the friendliest, most personable people are the worst abusers”.[2]

3. The majority of victims and survivors were sexually abused solely by a man or by multiple men (89 percent of Truth Project participants). Isaac was anally raped by a male teacher in his school changing rooms. He has vivid memories of the pain of the assault: “I can’t describe how awful it is”.[3]

4. A much smaller proportion reported being sexually abused by a man and a woman acting together (7 percent of Truth Project participants). Betsy grew up in the 1960s. Her parents sent her to live with another couple, who told her that they were going to teach her about sex. The couple sexually abused Betsy, including making her watch them performing sexual acts. Betsy was told off for “telling fairytales” when she told the police.[4] Fewer victims and survivors reported sexual abuse perpetrated solely by a woman (3 percent of Truth Project participants). In 2013, one child in a custodial institution stated that: “a female officer touches my bum and dick and grabs me during searches”.[5]

5. Most victims and survivors described a single period of time during which child sexual abuse was perpetrated, although this could be prolonged and in most cases lasted for several years. Other victims and survivors reported being sexually abused on multiple, unrelated occasions throughout their childhood. Twenty-nine percent of Truth Project participants reported two or more periods of sexual abuse during their childhood. Between the ages of 5 and 10 years old, Nicole was vaginally, anally and orally raped by a series of older boys.[6] Later, when she was a teenager, her brother-in-law began to repeatedly rape her.

6. The majority of victims and survivors were sexually abused by people they knew. In particular, almost half of Truth Project participants described sexual abuse by family members (Table D.1).[7] This was more common amongst female victims and survivors than male victims and survivors. Heidi’s father told her “this is our little secret” when he raped her.[8] She was eight years old at the time. From the age of six, Humaira was sexually abused, including being raped, by her older brother. She believed her parents knew about the abuse because they eventually sent him away to live with a relative.[9]

Table D.1: Who Truth Project participants were sexually abused by, by participants’ sex*

Relationship of perpetrator to Truth Project participant Percentage of Truth Project participants
Female Male All
Family member 58 23 47
Another child, not related 14 16 14
Educational staff 8 24 12
Religious staff 3 12 6
Foster carer/family 3 2 3
Residential care worker 2 7 3
Health professional 3 2 2
Sports staff 1 3 1
Custodial institution staff 0 2 1
Defence forces personnel 0 1 1

* In this table, ‘staff’ refers to formally employed, contracted and voluntary or unpaid staff.

7. Other victims and survivors were sexually abused by adults they knew outside of their family. The majority of male Truth Project participants were sexually abused by someone outside of their family. This included school staff, those in religious organisations and those responsible for the care of children, such as foster carers and residential care staff (Table D.1). Such people were sometimes held in high esteem by their friends, family or community. One Truth Project participant described the man who sexually abused her as “a cool teacher … everybody loved him”.[10] Victims and survivors often spoke about how the sexual abuser’s role or position enabled them to spend time alone with children. Howard was sexually abused by a nurse in hospital, “a person of trust in the perfect job to abuse”.[11]

8. In more recent accounts, a number of victims and survivors reported being sexually assaulted by someone they met online. Jonny was raped by a man he met in a chatroom: “I froze and didn’t fight back … I had lots of bruising … he hit and raped me”. He said: “From that point, my life fell apart”.[12]

9. Some victims and survivors were sexually abused by other children. In most cases, this happened either in the family home, in a school or in a children’s home. Oliver described being forced into violent “sexual slavery” by an older pupil when he was a young child. He said: “I didn’t see it as abuse at the time; just something really, really terrible”.[13] May was also sexually abused at primary school.[14] She described how, between the ages of five and seven, another child regularly sexually abused her by inserting objects and his fingers into her vagina. She now believes that the boy was being sexually abused and may have been mimicking what he had seen.

10. A minority of victims and survivors were sexually abused by those with whom they had no relationship or connection. Some described being sexually abused by a stranger on a single occasion. When Soraya was about 12 years old, a man exposed himself and masturbated in front of her and her friends.[15] Her friends ran away, and the man orally and anally raped Soraya. Alicia was raped in her bed by a man when she was eight years old. She said: “He was a complete stranger. I’ll never know who he was … it just happened”.[16]

11. Most victims and survivors were sexually abused by an individual perpetrator, although some were sexually abused multiple times by different perpetrators. Gerrard was regularly physically and sexually abused by “a constant stream of men and older boys”.[17] CS-A372 said that when she was 14 years old she was forced to perform oral sex on more than 20 men.[18] A few months later, she was abducted, held at gunpoint and again forced to perform oral sex on a group of men. Phoebe was forced into sex work and made to “service” scores of men each day. She said: “I was like a little fish in a shark tank”.[19]

12. Victims and survivors who were abused by multiple perpetrators often described this as being organised. Some victims and survivors described being exploited by groups or networks of abusers. The Inquiry was told about one victim and survivor, Daisy, who in the early 2000s was sexually exploited and passed around for sex to between 100 and 150 men.[20] From the age of 11, Jodie was sexually exploited by four men, who were paid in return for offering her to other men for sex. On one occasion, one of the sexual abusers incited two teenage boys to rape her simultaneously. Jodie said about her experiences: “I sometimes forget how big it is until I talk about it”.[21]

13. A small number of victims and survivors spoke about sexual abuse being organised within an institution. Hugh described a masked group entering his school dormitory at night to select children to be sexually abused.[22] Samuel was brought up in a religious organisation focussed on discipline, which he described as a cult.[23] Samuel said that the elders were extremely violent towards the children and sometimes raped them.


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