A poll of 116 survivors from IICSA’s Victims and Survivors Forum found that 69% of people did not speak about the abuse due to fears of being stereotyped and 81% said they have felt stereotyped since disclosing the abuse.
Many survivors talked about how they felt “put in a box” after disclosing their abuse, describing how they had been labelled as emotionally unstable, damaged or weak. They explained the detrimental impact this had had on their professional and personal lives.
One survivor said, “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.”
One of the most common stereotypes mentioned was that those who were sexually abused as children would become abusers themselves.
Survivors described how assumptions contribute to the “stigma and shame” surrounding this issue and some said stereotyping had acted as a barrier to them speaking out or had prevented them from disclosing the abuse altogether.
95% of survivors said that encouraging a more open conversation about child sexual abuse would help stop stereotyping and ensure that those who feel ready to speak out are able to do so.
The Inquiry commented that the poll highlights the urgent need for society to break down the wall of silence around child sexual abuse in order to help improve understanding, awareness and the true impact that abuse can have on the lives of those affected. One of the participants in the poll said “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.”
Via IICSA’s Truth Project to date over 4,000 people have shared their experiences of child sexual abuse and made recommendations for change.
Michael May, Head of the London and the South East Inquiry Offices commented on 19 September 2019 that “As a society we are moving into a much more open conversation that gives people permission to take risks that they haven’t been able to take before.” The Inquiry is still calling for survivors to come forward.
Written by Catherine Davey, associate at BLM