The devastating life-long impact of child abuse has been described by members of The Truth Project, part of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.
The Inquiry has published the accounts of 80 victims and survivors of child sexual abuse which were shared with The Truth Project, which provides an opportunity for survivors of child sexual abuse to share their experience and put forward suggestions for change.
Victims and survivors told the Truth Project about the barriers they faced in coming forward, how they hope to help others by sharing their account, as well as the lifelong effects of the abuse they experienced.
Barny has been profoundly affected by the abuse throughout his adult life, having abused alcohol in the past, and worked and exercised compulsively. He suffers with poor mental health, an eating disorder and self-harm. “Pain, guilt and shame burn within me,” said Barny.
Survivors described abuse taking place in religious institutions, residential care homes and sports settings. They report how those in authority turned a blind eye leaving them with no one to tell what was happening. When they were able to report abuse, they were encouraged to stay silent, ignored or threatened.
Moira described how her abuser threatened to kill her sister if Moira didn’t do what he wanted or if she told anyone about the abuse.
Survivors also spoke about the barriers they faced in coming forward, describing fears of stigma, not being believed, or simply not knowing how to describe what was happening to them. Kiya said she felt “trapped in a shameful lie … I couldn’t tell anyone what had happened”.
Victims reported the detrimental impact the abuse has had across all aspects of their lives including education, relationships, their career, as well as physical and mental health. In many cases, survivors said that the effects lasted decades. Zander struggles to contain his emotions as he describes the effect that the sexual abuse had on him, and still has. “Every day for the last 40-odd years, it has been on my mind,” he said.
Survivors describe changes that survivors hope will help others, such as better understanding in society, greater education and more open conversations around the effects of child sexual abuse. Many said that by sharing their account, they hoped to help others who had been through a similar experience.
Paul Stewart, former professional footballer for Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool and England, said: “Whilst the abuse I endured as a child was horrendous, the impact it had on my adult life has been far reaching, and the impact my destructive behaviour had on my loved ones has been catastrophic. Abuse never stops when it stops.
“It's important that victims and survivors can share their experience if they wish to do so, and the Truth Project provides a supportive opportunity to come forward, free from judgement.
“I hope the accounts shared can help to contribute to a more open conversation about the impact of abuse. It's vital that survivors' voices are heard,” he added.
The Truth Project is drawing to a close in October 2021 and all of the accounts shared will be used to inform the findings and recommendations in the Inquiry’s Final Report, due to be published next year.
Victims and survivors who would like to share their experience can do so over the phone via video call or in writing. More information about how to share an experience is available on the Truth Project website.