IICSA’s Truth Project – the importance of the voice of victims and surviors

Over 6000 victims and survivors of child sexual abuse have shared their experience with the Truth Project, part of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.

Launched in 2015, the Truth Project has provided a safe and supportive opportunity for survivors to share their accounts and put forward suggestions for change.

The Truth Project began as a pilot in Liverpool in November 2015, with all victims and survivors being invited to share their experiences from early 2016. When the Coronavirus pandemic hit, and in-person sessions were suspended, victims and survivors were still able to engage with the Truth Project on the telephone, via video call and in writing. 

Those who have come forward describe feelings of empowerment and catharsis, with many telling the Inquiry of the relief they felt when finally being listened to.

The experiences shared with the Truth Project have formed the basis of some of the Inquiry’s research into areas including schools, residential care, religious institutions, sport, healthcare and custodial institutions, providing an in-depth insight into victims and survivors’ experiences within specific settings. 

This research has run alongside the Inquiry’s regular Truth Project dashboard publications, which have provided a key overview of accounts shared. The Inquiry’s most recent dashboard found that of the 5,440 accounts so far analysed:

  • 88 percent described an impact on their mental health, with over a third reporting depression;
  • Just over two thirds did not tell anyone about the sexual abuse at the time it was happening;
  • 45 percent reported an illness or condition that affects their day-to-day life;
  • One in 10 were talking about an experience of child sexual abuse for the first time when they spoke to the Truth Project.

A number of the accounts shared have been published on the Inquiry’s website, helping to amplify the voices of victims and survivors and bringing the impact of their experiences into the public consciousness. The Inquiry’s Interim Report says of cultural change:

The Inquiry considers that children ‒ and adult victims and survivors of child sexual abuse ‒ will be better protected and supported if society is prepared to discuss the issue openly and frankly.

The accounts shared have played a significant part in helping to encourage this conversation within society, and drive a change in culture to remove the silence which surrounds the subject of child sexual abuse. 

The project closed at the end of October 2021 so that all of the accounts shared can be used to inform the Inquiry’s Final Report, due to be published in 2022. 

Dru Sharpling, Panel Member and Head of the Truth Project, said:

I am thankful to the thousands of people who have now come forward and made such an important contribution to the Inquiry, helping to protect future generations. I do not underestimate the extraordinary courage shown by the victims and survivors who have taken part in the Truth Project. Some have shared what happened to them as children for the first time, after years or even decades of silence. Their experiences serve to emphasise the importance of this Inquiry and its work.’

The importance of listening to those who have been abused is evidenced by the number of people who contributed their accounts to the Truth Project. The voices of all victims and survivors, including those people who are less inclined to speak out, should always be considered when an organisation is considering how to respond to disclosure of abuse.

Written by Catherine Davey at BLM (catherine.davey@blmlaw.com)

The National Association for People Abused in Childhood is a national charity offering support to adult survivors of all types of childhood abuse, including physical, emotional, sexual and neglect. As well as advocating on behalf of survivors in the media and elsewhere, NAPAC also trains professionals who have frequent contact with survivors of child abuse as part of their working environment. If you have been affected by the issues raised in today’s blog, or would like additional support, please use the links above.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s