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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Child sexual abuse in the context of religious institutions

Background of children abused in religious contexts

Participation in the Truth Project sessions to date demonstrates a higher proportion of males among participants sexually abused in a religious context compared with those abused in a non-religious context (61 per cent and 34 per cent respectively).

Overall, the most common individual decade for such abuse to commence was the 1970s, with one in three participants reporting the abuse started in this time period. However, 42 per cent of participants sexually abused in religious contexts reported abuse that commenced prior to the 1970s, compared to 30 per cent of participants who were abused in other contexts.This suggests that among participants who took part in the Truth Project, experiences of child sexual abuse in religious contexts tended to commence in a slightly earlier time period than for those abused in other contexts.

The most common age range for participants to first experience abuse in a religious context was 8–11 years old (41 per cent). The age of participants when they first experienced child sexual abuse in a religious context was slightly older on average than for those abused in non-religious contexts. Of the participants sexually abused in a religious context, 73 per cent of participants shared that they were eight or older when the abuse started in comparison to 56 per cent of participants abused in other contexts.

Participants highlighted that religion was central to their childhoods and family life. Many spoke of emotional distance and dysfunction within their families. Others, many of whom were isolated, geographically or socially, described solitary childhoods.

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