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Survivors of child sexual abuse wish they had spoken out sooner

Victims and survivors of child sexual abuse have spoken about how they wish they had disclosed their abuse earlier.

Speaking to the Truth Project, part of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, survivors spoke of the devastating impacts of the abuse, the difficulties they faced in speaking out and how they hoped to help others by coming forward.

One survivor, Sheryl, told the Truth Project: “I wish I had the courage to speak up sooner. The more people tell their stories the more awareness there will be.”

The Truth Project has been running for six years to enable victims and survivors of child sexual abuse to share their experiences and put forward suggestions for change. The Truth Project came to a close last October and the Inquiry has published a further 50 accounts shared with the Project. The experiences shared as part of the project will feed into the Inquiry’s final report due to be published later this year.

Survivors described sexual abuse taking place across a range of contexts, including residential care homes, schools and religious institutions and spoke about those in authority turning a blind eye. Others were encouraged to stay silent, ignored or threatened when they reported abuse, while some said they simply had no one to tell.

Felix said: “You’re like a little child crying out in the wilderness and nobody’s listening.”

Victims and survivors told the Truth Project about the struggles they faced in speaking out, describing fears of stigma or not being believed. Many spoke about the severe impact the sexual abuse has had across all aspects of their lives including relationships, education and work, as well as physical and mental health. For some victims, the effects of the abuse have lasted years.

Nearly a decade after the abuse ended, Shannon explained how almost a decade after the abuse ended, she still feels the effects: “It still affects me now … it affects everything. The long-term effects are worse than the abuse.”

The experiences shared also describe changes that survivors hope to see in future, such as better education, greater awareness and more open conversations about the effects of child sexual abuse.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse is examining the extent to which institutions and organisations have failed to protect children in England and Wales from sexual abuse.

The 50 accounts shared with the Truth Project are available here.

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