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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Child sexual abuse in the context of religious institutions

Sample and methods

The statistical information in this report is based on a sample of 1,697 participants who took part in the Truth Project during June 2016 to November 2018. Of these, 183 individuals told us they had been sexually abused as children in religious institutions, or by clergy or church-related staff elsewhere. To draw out themes and commonalities, quantitative data from these participants are shown alongside quantitative data from the 1,514 participants whose descriptions of abuse did not involve religious contexts.

As the participants in this report are individuals who have chosen to take part in the Truth Project, the statistics produced are not necessarily reflective of the general population. Differences between those sexually abused in religious and non-religious contexts should therefore not be interpreted as reflecting differences within the general population of victims and survivors. The differences should also not be interpreted as being statistically significant, as tests of significance[1] have not been carried out. Tables containing all the figures for the statistical data are available in Appendix A, with the salient points drawn out within the body of the report.

We also qualitatively analysed the experiences that 12 of these victims and survivors shared with the Truth Project. A total of 12 were selected to enable analysis of a range of experiences and circumstances of sexual abuse in religious contexts. This sample will also form part of a total of around 70 participant accounts that will be qualitatively analysed as part of the full Truth Project analysis. The sample for the qualitative analysis described in this report was randomly selected within a sampling framework designed to ensure we included a range of characteristics and circumstances, such as religious institution type, time period in which the abuse occurred, victim age and victim sex. This framework and further information about the sample can be found in Chapter 2.

The majority of cases analysed in this report relate to the Anglican or Catholic Church, with a minority relating to other Christian denominations or other religions[2]. In order to prevent the possible identification of participants in our qualitative sample and because the number of cases in each group was too small for meaningful quantitative analysis, we did not break down our research findings by specific religion or type of religious institution in this report. Consequently, we only draw out commonalities and differences between those abused in religious contexts and those abused in non-religious contexts.

An overview of the process used for carrying out analysis of Truth Project information can be found in the separate report, Truth Project Research: Methods (King and Brähler, 2019).



  1. Tests of significance are typically used to assess whether a result is likely to have occurred by chance. For example, a statistically significant result would suggest that a result is unlikely to be explained by chance.
  2. These include: Judaism, Baptist, Methodist, Mormon, Salvation Army, United Reform Church.
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