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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Child sexual abuse in the context of children’s homes and residential care

Experiences of recovery and support

Participants’ accounts highlighted four key strategies they had used to cope with the experience of child sexual abuse later in life or aid their recovery in some way: ‘just carrying on’ and suppression; facing the past and speaking out; therapy and support; and belief in the greater good and giving something back.

And I’ve not tried to look, because I’ve just kind of – until now, I’ve just pushed everything to the back ... Because it was just – I have my own family, I have my own kids, that I just want to protect, and keep my past to my past. And that was it.

Truth Project participant sexually abused in a residential care context

Participants spoke about three key factors which had hindered their recovery or served as ‘triggers’ – that is, situations, events or sensations which (re)trigger the trauma associated with the sexual abuse. These were: poor or inadequate responses from institutions and professionals; a lack of support from family or friends – typically as a result of fractured or non-existent relationships with family members; and other negative life events and direct reminders, such as seeing the perpetrator or another child that had lived with them in the particular institution.

Participants described receiving little or no support from institutions, and lack of support more generally. Positive experiences of support were more commonly attributed to the informal support received from other victims and survivors, friends and colleagues, rather than formal support services in the form of counselling, for example. Experiences of formal support were mixed and some participants described difficulties accessing or receiving counselling – whether from statutory services, voluntary sectors or private providers – that met their needs.

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