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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

G.10: “I don’t know what a healthy relationship looks like”

46. Many victims and survivors felt that being sexually abused as a child had affected their ability to form and maintain relationships. Some felt that they were not able to connect to others. Bryce said that he had never married nor had children “for the simple reason I couldn’t live with anyone who knew what had happened to me”.[1]

47. For others, there was an enduring connection between affection and sexual abuse. Gerard said he had difficulties with holding hands[2] and Laakia said that acts of kindness “confuse her”.[3] Ebrah described her sadness that she cannot tolerate affection from men, even from her father, “a wonderful man”.[4]

“I became an easy target”

48. Victims and survivors sometimes felt that being sexually abused as a child made them more vulnerable to being sexually abused again later in their childhood. Ashleigh thought that it was a disclosure of previous sexual abuse which made her choirmaster decide to exploit her vulnerability.[5] Marcia said: “it was like you had a big sign on your head that said ‘prey’”.[6]

49. Some victims and survivors said that their romantic relationships as an adult had been consistently abusive. They felt that being sexually abused as a child meant that they were unable to form healthy relationships. Mary-Beth said she feels she has chosen partners who are “controlling and intimidating” as this mirrored her childhood experiences.[7] NO-A76 described being unable to understand what a non-abusive relationship would be like:

I would say that at no point in my teenage years or early adulthood was any sexual contact I had non-abusive in some way, shape or form. Abusive relationships continued into adulthood as I struggled to even understand what a non-abusive relationship was like”.[8]

NO-A76, Children in the care of the Nottinghamshire Councils investigation

“They destroyed any trust I had”

50. The majority of victims and survivors who engaged with the Inquiry were sexually abused by someone they knew and trusted. Victims and survivors repeatedly said that child sexual abuse shattered their ability to trust anyone (37 percent of Truth Project participants). Tanith said that she felt “wary” and that her “trust now is not very easily earned”.[9] Others described trust issues in relation to particular groups of people, generally related to the person who sexually abused them. It was most common to hear that victims and survivors struggled to trust men. RS-A1 said that she felt “generally hostile and wary towards males”.[10] Angharad described how child sexual abuse led her to believe that “that’s what men were going to do … abuse me for sex”.[11]

“It messed up my relationship with sex”

51. Some victims and survivors felt that being sexually abused led to them being sexually active from a young age. Carolina described her view that she sought out sexual contact as a teenager as a result of the sexual abuse that happened in her early childhood.[12] Maeve said that she was a hypersexualised young person as a result of experiencing sexual abuse; she “had pretty much tried everything” and it all “just seemed normal” for her.[13]

52. Some victims and survivors developed a strong aversion to sex as a result of child sexual abuse. Thirteen percent of Truth Project participants mentioned an avoidance or phobia of sexual intimacy. Cate said that when she started to develop sexual feelings she was disgusted.[14] Garry said that he developed a phobia about sex and intimacy that makes him afraid to touch anyone.[15]

53. Some victims and survivors shared that they had had a large number of sexual partners after experiencing child sexual abuse. For some, this was a way of escaping from or managing the impact of child sexual abuse. Others described having a large number of sexual partners as a negative experience, motivated by low self-esteem. Lorna described herself as promiscuous and said she often had sex when she didn’t really want to.[16] Jo-ann said that she became promiscuous because “I felt that’s all I was for”.[17]

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