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The impacts of child sexual abuse


We wanted to learn more about the impacts of child sexual abuse on victims and survivors.

  • We carried out a review of the existing research literature on the impacts of child sexual abuse. We reviewed over 200 relevant studies, analysed them and wrote up a report of the key research findings.
  • We also brought together victims and survivors, academics and professionals to discuss victim and survivor experiences of child sexual abuse, including the impacts of child sexual abuse.


Key Themes

  • Victims and survivors
  • Rapid evidence assessment
  • Physical and mental health
  • Outcomes





  • As part of its work, the Inquiry is seeking to examine the impacts of child sexual abuse on the lives of victims and survivors and their families, as well as the impacts on wider society. These questions have cross-cutting relevance to the work of the Inquiry.

  • The Inquiry has also carried out a consultation to understand more about how effectively existing support service provisions met the needs of people who have experienced or been affected by child sexual abuse. As part of the consultation victims and survivors were invited to give their views on the impacts of child sexual abuse and experiences of support services; they were also asked for suggestions for improvements.  


July 2017: REA was published

July 2017: Seminar was held

June - September 2017: consultation held

What we learned from the REA

The REA categorised a range of impacts, or outcomes which have been associated with child sexual abuse, including:

  • Physical health

  • Emotional wellbeing, mental health and internalising behaviours

  • Externalising behaviours, such as substance misuse.

  • Interpersonal relationships, such as reduced relationship satisfaction and stability.

  • Socioeconomic outcomes, such as lower educational attainment.

  • Effects on religious and spiritual belief such as disillusionment with religion.

  • Vulnerability to being victimised again.

The REA found that the consequences of child sexual abuse can vary greatly between individual victims and survivors and groups. The report also explored the concepts of resilience and recovery which described how victims and survivors can remain healthy or recover following child sexual abuse. It also sets out the ways in which wider society can affect resilience and recovery, for example, through the provision of good support services.

What the new research is about

  • The Inquiry has commissioned the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen), working with ResearchAbility to carry out research in a small sample of mainstream and special residential schools across England and Wales.

  • The study will explore practice in identifying, reporting and responding to child sexual abuse amongst residential schools.

  • Participating schools will be asked to complete a survey about the recording and reporting of incidents of child sexual abuse. Confidential research interviews will be conducted with staff, pupils and parents at these schools. Researchers will also speak to people in local authorities about how they work with residential schools in relation to safeguarding and child sexual abuse.

Implications for the work of the Inquiry

  • The REA and seminar had cross‑cutting relevance for the Inquiry and provided valuable insight for the Inquiry’s work.
  • The issues discussed at the seminar have generated ideas for further consideration and some of the key themes informed the Inquiry’s Interim Report.
  • Insights from the REA and seminar will continue to be considered by the Inquiry alongside other important work the Inquiry is undertaking with victims and survivors, such as the Truth Project.
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