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What is Childhood Sexual Abuse?

*Trigger warning. Please be aware that the following information may be difficult to read and may affect you. If you are a survivor reading this please make sure you take care of yourself and ensure you have someone you can talk about the impact it has on you. 

It is acknowledged that childhood sexual abuse happens a lot more frequently than people would have believed, or have wanted to believe in the past. The most up to date data currently in the UK comes from the Office of National Statistics Crime Survey (ONS) 2021, which states that 7% of the 16-74 year olds experienced sexual abuse in childhood.

Some survivors are well aware of the trauma they experienced in childhood. They may be troubled by memories of abuse, and they continue to live with the pain, confusion and feelings of loneliness they experienced as a child. Other survivors may not remember that they have been abused, or they may only remember some experiences of abuse or not be sure at all. They may not understand or acknowledge that what they experienced was abuse or neglect.

It is very common for survivors to deny that an experience was abusive, or to minimise the seriousness of the abuse by thinking or saying ‘it only happened once’ or ‘it wasn’t so bad’. Many survivors live with symptoms of abuse, such as panic attacks, strange body sensations, inexplicable fears and anxiety, or aches and pains, that they are unable to explain. Their body remembers what happened to them, and they relive the emotions and feelings associated with abuse over and over again - but many survivors don’t connect these symptoms to the abuse they experienced.

You may not be sure if you were sexually abused or not so we have listed some of the things that have happened to people who we've worked with as a guideline. Please note this is not comprehensive and if you are in any doubt about whether you were sexually abused as a child please feel free to get in touch with us or discuss with an appropriate professional like your GP.

Sexual abuse involves an abuse of power – the abuser being an adult or an older child. Sexual abuse also involves an abuse of trust.

Childhood Sexual Abuse can include (but is not limited to) the following:


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The Survivors in Transition (SiT) website is an information and signposting resource, neither SiT nor its affiliated staff or volunteers take responsibility for any information that is out of date or inaccurate. Some of the content on the website may contain triggers and we suggest it is used with due care.
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