Our manifesto outlines “22 ways to build resilience and aspiration in people and communities” across five key areas. Download your copy.

Dismiss close

Child exploitationVictim services

16 Days of Action: The impact of child sexual abuse on victims and survivors

Portrait of two young women, one looking directly at the camera and the other looking away from it. Overlaid is the text "16 Days of Action against Gender-Based Violence".

Backed by the United Nations and organisations around the world, 16 days of Action against gender-based violence is an annual international campaign which calls for the end of violence against women and girls (VAWG). Catch22 are running a series of blogs highlighting the various different forms VAWG can take, approaches to tackling it and supporting its victims and how we can keep up the movement’s momentum.

Today’s blog is by Tamara De Silva, Vulnerable Victim Case Manager at Beacon Victim Care.

According to the NSPCC, Childhood Sexual Abuse occurs when a child or young person is either forced or tricked into sexual activities either online or through physical contact. They might not understand that what’s happening is abuse or that it is wrong, and they might be afraid to tell someone due to manipulation or fear of their perpetrator. Over 90% of Childhood Sexual Abuse (CSA) is committed by someone the child knows and over one third of police-reported sexual offences are against children and young people.

Who does child sexual abuse affect?

Although we do not know exactly how many children in the UK have been victims of child sexual abuse due to under-reporting, in March 2021 research by the NSPCC showed that out of 2,275 young people aged 11-17 spoken to about their experiences of sexual abuse, around 1 in 20 children in the UK have been sexually abused as a child with most of these victims being girls. According to Stop It Now however, statistics show that 1 in 6 boys are impacted by child sexual abuse breaking down myths around victims of this crime type and who it impacts. This can also be supported by the cases we have seen directly at the Catch22 as I myself have supported many victims of child sexual abuse with them being both boys and girls.

In what ways are victims impacted by child sexual abuse?

There are many ways in which a victim of childhood sexual abuse can be impacted including physically, mentally, emotionally and socially. Although the nature of this crime can have similarities, not one child or victim is the same and it is therefore important to recognise the needs of victims of childhood sexual abuse are very different and individual.

In my experience working with children who are victims of this crime, the impact can affect them at any stage within their life with some children managing their emotions at the time of the offence, whilst others can process the impact much later on. Some children may become aware of their abuse as they mature and go through puberty as well as from their surroundings, which can often be triggered by assemblies or PSHE lessons at school or from other peers talking about topics of a sexual nature. There is therefore no limit to the level of impact and no set timescale of which a victim will recover, which is important to consider when supporting a victim of childhood sexual abuse.

How can we best support victims of childhood sexual abuse?

Firstly, it should be highly recognised how difficult and brave it is for a victim of childhood sexual abuse to disclose their abuse. Many children are often abused by someone they love and trust and this can therefore create barriers to them receiving help and support from professionals.

Victims of childhood sexual abuse can feel a number of different emotions including anger and hatred but also love and care, which can be conflicting and very confusing for them. It is therefore important that they have a confidential and non-judgmental space to talk openly about how they feel and the impact this crime has had on them as well as being led by the victim themselves, allowing them to feel empowered and in control. Rapport building is essential to building trust as well as being patient and understanding, allowing them to share their story as, when and if they are ready to.