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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

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

Impacts of the sexual abuse

Participants spoke about an extensive range of impacts following the sexual abuse they had experienced in a residential care context.

Many described the negative impact the sexual abuse had on their mental health. Notable amongst those who had been abused in this context was a lack of trust in authority (30 per cent) and running away (24 per cent). Running away was reported to be a common response to the experience of sexual abuse at the time amongst other techniques to try to escape it.

And as time went on, and things started to escalate, I just wanted to run away from [the] children’s home. I’d run away constantly. I didn’t want to go back. I thought, if I go back, it’s going to happen again, and it’s best if I just keep running.

- Truth Project participant sexually abused in a residential care context

Participants abused in this context sometimes reported being involved in various criminal behaviours later in their lives (29 per cent), such as theft and buying illicit drugs. Some of these participants believed this was a direct result of the abuse they had experienced. The proportion of participants reporting involvement in criminal behaviours was higher than for those abused in other contexts (8 per cent).

Other impacts evident in participants’ accounts included: physical injury as a result of the sexual abuse (most notably among female participants); wider issues with trust and intimacy; difficulties with education, employment and housing; substance misuse; and difficulties with sleeping and nightmares.

Participants also spoke of the impact of the sexual abuse they observed on other children who were living in the same establishment, including self-harm and attempted suicides.

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