The scope and impact of child sexual abuse across the United Kingdom is shown in a “devastating” report being released this week.
How significant are the findings?
Researchers found that child sexual abuse is “widespread across all communities and social classes,” and “perpetrated in schools and other institutions much more widely than previously thought,” according to the Daily Mail.
The research report, obtained by the Daily Mail, is believed to contain “biggest archive of evidence by abuse victims and survivors ever assembled,” in the UK. Included are detailed statements from 50 of the 1,400 people who came forward as part of the Truth Project for the Independent Inquiry on Child Sexual Abuse established by Theresa May when she was Home Secretary.
Some of the participants have reportedly waited decades to tell their stories. About one-third of the data comes from alleged abuse that happened 50 or more years ago.
Victims who tell their accounts to the Truth Project are interviewed by a trained facilitator. One of the goals of the project is to give victims a safe environment in which they can express what they have kept to themselves for many years, according to the report.
Dru Sharpling, the former Crown Prosecutor for London, is an IICSA panel member who leads the Truth Project. She told the Daily Mail some testimonies were referred to the police. Because of the referrals, 14 perpetrators have been convicted of child sexual abuse so far.
Forty percent of the victims reported being between ages 3 to 7 when their abuse began. Thirty-two percent were between ages 8 and 11. More than one-third indicated they were abused multiple times.
Sharpling said many of the stories are "extremely moving." But not all of them are believed. Some of the testimonies simply did not hold up during the interview process.
What was the impact on the victims?
Among the difficulties the victims reported later in life were “depression (33 percent), difficulties with trust and intimacy (28 percent), thoughts of suicide (28 percent) and actual suicide attempts (22 percent)."
About 28 percent of study participants reported being abused by relatives, according to the report.
One of the most shocking revelations was that roughly one-quarter of the respondents indicated they were abused by teachers and other educational staffers, according to the Daily Mail. One-fifth reported abuse from adult friends of their families or “trusted members of the community.”
Fourteen percent reported that members of the clergy abused them, and 12 percent said they were abused by professionals that included doctors and social workers.
Residential care workers were responsible for 9 percent of the abuse, the report states.
“We’re learning that many people have put themselves in positions of trust and authority to have access to children,” Rebekah Eglinton, an IICSA clinical psychologists who works closely with the Truth Project, told the Daily Mail.
“It feels really important that we are here. People tell us again and again how silenced they have felt. This is an opportunity to end that silence and so to hear how we can better protect children," she explained.