More than three quarters of victims and survivors of child sexual abuse believe they were stereotyped after speaking out about their abuse.
Based on a poll of 116 survivors from the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse Victims and Survivors Forum, new statistics found that more than half did not report the abuse because of concerns over how they would be seen by others.
"When I have disclosed my status as a survivor of child sexual abuse, I feel that people see me only as a victim. I have a senior role in business and people’s attitudes towards me have definitely changed when I have told them. They see me as weak," said one survivor.
The forum enables survivors of child sexual abuse the opportunity to meet, discuss and contribute to the Inquiry's work.
The statistics found:
- 95 per cent said that encouraging a more open conversation about child sexual abuse would help stop the stereotyping of victims and survivors.
- 81 per cent said they have felt stereotyped as a victim and survivor of child sexual abuse.
- 69 per cent said they did not speak out about the abuse due to fears of being stereotyped.
It found that many survivors revealed that they felt ‘put in a box’ after disclosing their abuse, describing how they felt that they been labelled as emotionally unstable, damaged or weak. They explained the detrimental impact this had had on both their professional and personal lives.
A common stereotype mentioned by survivors was that those who were sexually abused as children would become abusers themselves.
Survivors described how assumptions contribute to the “stigma and shame” which can still surround those impacted by child sexual abuse. They explained how stereotypes have acted as a barrier to them speaking out, or have prevented them from disclosing the abuse.
There is an urgent need for society to break down the wall of silence around child sexual abuse in order to help improve understanding and raise awareness about the impact that abuse can have on the lives of those affected, the poll found.
“It is important for people to understand that the legacy of child abuse affects every aspect of a survivor’s life. It has shaped our experience of the world and how we live moment to moment in it," said another survivor.
The poll revealed that 95 per cent of victims and survivors felt that encouraging a more open conversation could help prevent the stereotyping of victims and survivors and ensure that those who feel ready to speak out are able to do so.
The Inquiry is calling for survivors to come forward to its Truth Project where more than 4,000 people have shared their experiences and made recommendations for change.
Inquiry Panel member, Drusilla Sharpling said: “Survivors of child sexual abuse come from all walks of life. If we are to make recommendations to keep children safe in future, we need to understand the wide range of survivor experiences.
“Whoever you are, and whatever your background, the Truth Project is here to listen to you," she added.
Survivors of child sexual abuse who would like to share their experiences in writing, over the phone or in person can get in touch with the Inquiry's Truth Project. Visit www.truthproject.org.uk or email email@example.com