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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.5: “Self-destruct mode”

26. Some victims and survivors described considering or actually harming themselves as children, or later in life.

27. Victims and survivors described some of their actions as children as attempts to “self-destruct”.[1] Danielle described her behaviour after being sexually abused as a child: “I would just self destruct … I would go off the rails and I didn’t care”.[2] Jorge said he went into “self-destruct mode” after he was sexually abused. He stopped attending school and was kicked out of the family home.[3] Robb said that, after he was sexually abused by his teacher, he “became completely crazy”; he went on a “one-man mission” to sabotage his education and he failed all his exams.[4]

28. Many victims and survivors, including 19 percent of Truth Project participants, reported physically self-harming as a result of the child sexual abuse they experienced. This was more commonly reported amongst women than men (21 percent and 13 percent of Truth Project participants, respectively). Alys was sexually abused by her father for many years; as a result, she self-harmed throughout her childhood. She recalled trying to fix the damage to her legs with superglue.[5] For some, self-harming felt like a way to communicate their suffering to others. Others self-harmed to make themselves less attractive:

I became obsessed with cutting my legs and my arms. And it was more my face. Because he would constantly say ‘You’re so pretty’ … I would start scratching and pinching my face and trying to disfigure my face … Because I thought, if I don’t look pretty, he won’t touch me”.[6]

Truth Project participant

29. Almost a fifth of Truth Project participants said that they had previously attempted suicide.[7] Suicide attempts were often related to mental health conditions linked to being sexually abused. One Truth Project participant described themselves as becoming “psychotic” and said: “I was quite determined to kill myself at times”.[8] Elaine experienced serious mental health problems as a result of being sexually abused and said: “I eternally feel bad”. She has attempted to kill herself on more than one occasion and lost a limb as a result.[9]

30. Victims and survivors who attempted to take their own life, self-harm or self-destruct sometimes reflected on the fact that they were still alive now, despite the pain they experienced. Zoya said: “I used to wake up and hope I was dead. Now I wake up and I’m so glad I’m alive”.[10] Angela said she was motivated to participate in the Inquiry’s work because “I am still alive … I am a survivor … this is why I am speaking to you”.[11]


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