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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.5: “I was sexually abused”

33. Victims and survivors described different types of sexual abuse. Eighty-one percent of Truth Project participants spoke about some form of contact sexual abuse, such as oral, vaginal or anal rape. Guy’s father orally raped him as a young child. He said: “I couldn’t breathe”.[1]

34. Many victims and survivors described multiple forms of contact sexual abuse. Often child sexual abuse began with touching and later involved penetrative acts. Maddy was sexually abused by a school caretaker from the age of eight. The caretaker befriended Maddy by giving her sweets and praising her schoolwork. Initially, he forced her to touch and kiss his penis. The caretaker then began to orally and vaginally rape Maddy.[2] Another victim and survivor described the effect of a perpetrator moving “step by step” towards sexual abuse: “Because the transition was so gradual, I didn’t even actually see it as … abnormal, because of the process, if you like”.[3]

35. Other victims and survivors described non-contact sexual abuse, such as being forced to watch pornography, watch sexual acts, or take and share sexual images. Around one in five Truth Project participants (22 percent) reported being exposed to adult sexuality. Victims and survivors who reported non-contact sexual abuse often said this was accompanied by contact abuse. Katherine’s father regularly made her watch and then re-enact pornography with him.[4] This included oral rape. She was five years old when the abuse began. When Heather was six or seven years old, her foster brother made her copy and perform “really horrible, horrible things” from the pornographic magazines he showed her.[5]

36. Sometimes, victims and survivors said that sexual abusers took explicit images of them, or showed them explicit images of others. One victim and survivor, who was sexually abused in the 1970s, was shown sexual magazines and books by a teacher at his school.[6] Daran’s mother took photographs of her boyfriend masturbating and raping her son.[7] Victims and survivors also described instances in which they were photographed or filmed while naked. RS-A345 described his distress at finding out that his boarding school housemaster had secretly filmed him, including in the shower and while masturbating.[8]

37. Younger victims and survivors described being asked to exchange explicit images online, often after a period of sexual grooming. Morgan described how she was groomed into sending explicit pictures and videos online aged 11.[9] Nola was subjected to years of online sexual abuse by a man who took photos of her. She recalled: “If I played along he was OK, but if I ever pushed back the threats got worse. It was a never ending spiral as he had worse and worse pictures of me”.[10]

38. Some victims and survivors described how perpetrators used the cover of ‘normal’ activities, such as medical examinations or sports coaching, to sexually abuse them. One Truth Project participant was sexually abused while swimming: “he would … do stuff under the water, acting like he’s teaching me to swim”.[11] The youth group leader who sexually abused Billy touched his genitals and explained that he was “checking to make sure it was ok”.[12] RO-A1 was told that he needed to remove his clothes to be checked for nits and to see whether he had washed himself “properly”.[13]

39. The physical experience of sexual abuse was often described by victims and survivors as full of terror. Dehenna was regularly sexually abused by her grandfather from the age of five. She was not able to breathe because of “the weight of him” and would beg him to stop.[14] Philida-May described struggling to breathe when the man who sexually abused her was on top of her.[15]

40. The horror and cruelty inflicted on victims and survivors during child sexual abuse was often extreme. Jonah described being subjected to “choreographed”, “humiliating” and “sadistic” sexual abuse by two men. He said: “I thought they were going to kill me … I still can’t comprehend how he could do what he did”.[16] Jonah was just 10 years old at the time.

41. Victims and survivors described feeling demeaned during child sexual abuse. AN-A117 described being “terrified” and “humiliated” by the bishop who forced him to masturbate in front of other boys.[17] Oscar described the headmaster of his preparatory boarding school as “sadistic beyond comprehension”. Oscar described how another teacher’s “idea of entertainment” was to strip him naked and make him recite verbs. Sometimes the teacher beat his penis with a hairbrush. Oscar said that on one occasion he passed out from pain.[18]

42. Victims and survivors often said that perpetrators laughed at their suffering. Kiara was once locked in a bathroom with a gang member so he could rape her, as the other members of the gang cheered outside. She cried and begged him to stop.[19] RC-A30 was sexually abused by a male teacher at a boarding school over a number of years, who “humiliated” her:

He would always have this really kind of quite creepy but very fixed smile on his face, like it was a joke that I somehow wasn’t getting. I felt very awkward and uncomfortable … he was laughing and smiling”.[20]

RC-A30, Roman Catholic Church investigation

43. Victims and survivors frequently described being “frozen with fear” during sexual abuse.[21] Bryn recalled feeling that he could not move due to his shock at being sexually assaulted.[22] Mabon said that he was so fearful while being anally raped that he “could not scream”.[23]

44. Many victims and survivors said that they felt confused after they were sexually abused. Children often did not understand what had happened to them. After Lucie was raped, aged five or six, she found “sticky stuff” inside her.[24] She had no idea what had happened to her.

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