Many organisations involved with childhood sexual abuse (CSA) focus on the children. This is vital. However, the long term trauma of CSA cannot be overlooked and this is where Stepping Out focuses – on adult survivors who often don’t disclose their abuse for decades – the average being 25 years. The facts are shocking yet motivating, for there is so much more we as a society can do to support and help transform the lives of adults who have endured sexual abuse as children.
The hard facts:
- 1 in 6 women and 1 in 10 men in Australia have experienced some form of sexual abuse with the ABS estimating that approximately 1,410,100 people living in Australia experienced sexual abuse before the age of 15 (ABS Personal Safety Survey 2016) and these are only the ones we know about.
- There is a long delay in disclosure with research indicating an average of 25 years. That is 25 years of potential trauma survivors battle to overcome to live a normal life (Royal Commission into Institutional Abuse of Children).
- Survivors are 4 times more likely to be incarcerated (CFCA – Long term effects report).
- Survivors are 40 times more likely to self harm (Cutajar et al. (2010b) and suicidal ideations are three times more likely. (The Guardian 2019).
- The mental health impact on adult survivors of CSA is significant:
- Research consistently shows adult survivors have high rates of mental illness, suicide, substance abuse and poor physical health; it also connects CSA with adults who have higher likelihood of depressive symptoms, anxiety symptoms, substance abuse disorders, eating disorders and post-traumatic stress disorders (aifs.gov.au).
- Research indicates a relationship between childhood sexual abuse and subsequent alcohol and substance abuse, as well as survivors being more likely than the non-abused to struggle with alcohol and substance disorders over their entire lifetime; often survivors use and abuse substances as a means of self-medication(aifs.gov.au).
- Additionally, research connects CSA to psychotic disorders including schizophrenia and delusional disorder and personality disorders; and there is evidence that children who have already been victimised in various ways are more likely to be re-victimised sexually or physically or both, as adults.(aifs.gov.au).
- The recent Royal Commission heard evidence from almost 8000 witnesses in private sessions, received 1,344 written accounts and held 444 days of public hearings. More than 1 in 10 survivors who gave evidence were in prison at the time of their private session.
The facts are real. Adult survivors need support. They need hope. Stepping Out provides that hope but we need ongoing support to grow and help more survivors. If you can donate, volunteer or want to become involved in any way please do. And please share our newsletter with family, friends and colleagues. With awareness comes acceptance and with acceptance more survivors will reach out to seek help and ultimately be able to lead a better life.