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Crime Survey for England and Wales reports on Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse for the first time

9 Aug 2016

A new module of questions included in the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) between 1 April 2015 and 31 March 2016 asked adult respondents aged 16 to 59 whether they had experienced a range of abuse while a child. The questions were restricted to abuse carried out by an adult and included psychological, physical, and sexual abuse and also having witnessed domestic violence or abuse in the home.

The survey showed that 9% of adults aged 16 to 59 had experienced psychological abuse, 7% physical abuse, 7% sexual assault and 8% witnessed domestic violence or abuse in the home. With the exception of physical abuse, women were significantly more likely to report that they had suffered any form of abuse asked about during childhood than men.

This was most marked with regard to any form of sexual assault, where women were 4 times as likely as men to be a survivor of such abuse during childhood (11% compared with 3%).

Women (3%) were significantly more likely than men (1%) to experience sexual assault by rape or penetration (including attempts) during childhood. This equates to an estimated 567,000 adult women aged 16 to 59 having experienced this type of abuse during their childhood, compared with an estimated 102,000 adult men aged 16 to 59. 

The proportions of adults reporting experience of abuse during childhood tended to increase with age. For example, adults aged 16 to 24 and 25 to 34 reported lower levels of any sexual assault (3% and 5%) than those aged 45 to 54 and 55 to 59 (both 9%). It is difficult to determine whether this indicates a reduction in the prevalence of child abuse in more recent years or whether it is due to survivors being more willing to disclose past abuse the further in time they are away from the experience.

Almost half (42%) of adults who had survived abuse during childhood had suffered 2 or more different types of abuse. The type of abuse most likely to be experienced on its own was sexual assault, with over half of all survivors of sexual assault experiencing no other form of abuse.

Around 3 in 4 victims had not told anyone about the abuse at the time it happened, and the most common reasons cited for not disclosing the abuse were embarrassment or humiliation, or thinking that they would not be believed.

Full details of the findings can be seen at the Office for National Statistics (ONS) website here. 

When the new figures were released on 5th August 2016, the End Violence Against Women Coalition, of which Rape Crisis England & Wales is a member, called on the Government to make the sustainable funding of specialist support services an urgent national priority.
Sarah Green, Co-Director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, said:
“We have clear confirmation that more than 1 in 10 women are living with the impact of sexual abuse in childhood, but specialist support services set up to help them, including Rape Crisis Centres, are historically underfunded and are commonly financed on a year to year basis creating great insecurity.”

Of the 58,000 individuals who received an ongoing service from the Rape Crisis England & Wales network last year, 42% were adult survivors of child sexual abuse.