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Open discussion needed around child abuse to break down stigma

Victims and survivors of non-recent child sexual abuse have called for a more open discussion about child abuse in society and for a culture to be developed whereby victims are not afraid to speak out.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse published a further 70 accounts shared with its Truth Project, which for over six years has provided an opportunity for survivors of child sexual abuse to share their experiences and put forward suggestions for change. The Truth Project has now come to a close.

One survivor Keyleigh told The Truth Project: “Ignorance and silence enable abuse. Not talking about it doesn’t mean it won’t happen. Education and conversation about abuse can help change that.”

Survivors described the lifelong impacts of the abuse, how they hope to help others by sharing their account, and the barriers they faced in coming forward.

Survivors described abuse taking place in schools, residential care homes and religious settings. They discussed how people in authoritative positions turned a blind eye, how they felt they had nobody to talk to about what was happening, or were encouraged to stay silent, ignored or threatened when they reported abuse.

Victims and survivors told the Truth Project 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.

Many revealed the detrimental impact the abuse has had across all aspects of their lives including relationships, education, their career, as well as physical and mental health. In some cases, the effects have lasted decades.

Speaking to The Truth Project, another survivor Jon-Jay said that he believes that a lack of openness adds to the confusion and shame that victims and survivors continue feeling. He said that for those who have experienced child sexual abuse, “it’s often the first experience you are likely to have had of any kind of sexual touching. I think that carries on through your life”.

Survivors described changes that they hoped for, such as greater education, improving societal understanding and more open conversations about 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.

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