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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

The impacts of child sexual abuse: A rapid evidence assessment

2. Impacts of CSA on the families of victims and survivors

Evidence shows that CSA does not just impact on the lives of victims and survivors, but can also have adverse effects on their families.[1] The impacts experienced by non-offending parents – and, in particular, mothers – as a result of their children’s CSA victimisation can mirror those outcomes experienced by victims and survivors.[2] CSA can affect all aspects of parents’ lives, including areas like physical health, personal relationships, employment and financial stability, over the medium to long term.[3] Rates of trauma (in this case in the form of ‘secondary’ or ‘vicarious’ trauma) and emotional distress were found to be high among non-offending parents.[4]

Parents can find it challenging to support a child who has been victimised at a time when they themselves might be struggling to cope with the emotional and practical strain following CSA. This can create a vicious circle in which the support that parents are able to provide to their child is compromised, thereby reducing the child’s chances of experiencing resilience or recovery.[5]

Minimal evidence was found on the impacts of CSA on siblings and partners of victims and survivors, although what was found suggested that CSA can also have detrimental impacts on these groups.[6] In particular, non-abusing siblings of child victims of CSA have been found to experience mental health/internalising behaviours and externalising behaviours similar to those experienced by victims and survivors, including depression and anxiety. They have also been found to suffer the impacts of family upheaval, stress and breakdown following the discovery of CSA.[7]



  1. See for example Quadara et al. (2016), op. cit.; Clevenger, S. (2016) Mothers of Sexual Assault Victims: How women do mother after their child has been sexually assaulted. Feminist Criminology, 11(3), pp.227-252; Stewart (2012), op. cit.; van Toledo et al. (2013), op. cit.; Breckenridge and Flax (2016), op. cit.
  2. See for example Breckenridge and Flax (2016), op. cit.; Quadara et al. (2016), op. cit.; Stewart (2012), op. cit.
  3. See for example Quadara et al. (2016), op. cit.; Stewart (2012), op. cit.; Jobe-Shields, L., Swiecicki, C. C., Fritz, D. R., Stinnette, J. S., and Hanson, R. F. (2016) Posttraumatic stress and depression in the nonoffending caregivers of sexually abused children: associations with parenting practices. Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, 25(1), pp.110-125; Kilroy et al. (2014), op. cit.; van Toledo et al. (2013), op. cit.; Fuller (2016), op. cit.; Knott (2014), op. cit.
  4. See for example Cyr, M., Frappier, J., Hébert, M., Tourigny, M., McDuff, P., and Turcotte, M. (2016) Psychological and physical health of non-offending parents after disclosure of sexual abuse of their child. Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, 25(7), pp.757- 776; Kim et al. (2007), op. cit.; Knott (2014), op. cit.; Breckenridge and Flax (2016), op. cit.
  5. Breckenridge and Flax (2016), op. cit.; Jobe-Shields et al. (2016), op. cit.
  6. Schreier, A., Pogue, J. K., Hansen, D. J. (2016) Impact of child sexual abuse on non-abused siblings: A review with implications for research and practice. Journal of Aggression and Violent Behaviour; Quadara et al. (2016), op. cit.
  7. Schreier et al. (2016), op. cit.
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