The lifelong impact of child sexual abuse and Government failings to provide survivors with information and support has today been revealed in a landmark report, as calls are made for urgent action to be taken.
A six-month inquiry, undertaken by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse gathered the views of nearly 400 survivors from across the country and was led by Rotherham MP and chair Sarah Champion.
It revealed abuse negatively impacts every aspect of a survivor's lives with 90 per cent of victims saying they have since struggled with intimate relationships; 89 per cent saying their mental health had been badly affected, 81 per cent revealing they struggled with family life and 72 per cent saying their career had been worst affected.
Shockingly, only 16 per cent said NHS mental health services met their needs, with survivors saying professionals rarely recognise the impact of impact, treat them insensitively and give them incorrect information.
Ms Champion said: “I have spoken to hundreds of survivors of childhood sexual abuse and it is striking that almost all of them describe the way they are treated by the state as a secondary form of abuse. Who are we as a nation if we do not support victims of horrendous crime?
"It is an outrage that despite all the talk of action so many child sex abuse survivors are left to fend for themselves. This is morally wrong and makes no sense economically.
"This report gives concrete, cost-effective solutions to Ministers. Victims and survivors of child abuse are fed up with warm words from Government, they now want change.
"Nearly 400 survivors have spoken. It’s time for the Government show it’s listening and take action.”
Survivors told the inquiry how their relationships and family life is impeded by abuse, with families sometimes permanently divided as a result of closure. Many survivors felt they did not get any support to deal with this.
Elizabeth - not her real name - from Rotherham was a victim of child sexual exploitation from the age of 14.
She was groomed by a woman and plied with alcohol and drugs before she was raped on numerous occasions.
Her abuse continued for more than 10 years.
"What happened to me will affect me for the rest of my life," Elizabeth, now 31, said.
"I have been diagnosed with PTSD, anxiety and clinical depression which I am on medication for
"I often wonder what my life could have been like if I had done my education and gone on to college to study to be a teacher, which is what I always dreamed of."
Elizabeth is now calling on the Government to act to help survivors.
She said: "Not once was I ever offered counselling.
"I want to see more money put into helping victims so they get better support than what I and many others have had, especially here in Rotherham.
Survivors told the inquiry that counselling from a specialist is the single most important form of support to their recovery.
The inquiry heard how many organisations do heroic work in the face of minuscule funding, but inevitably, many survivors are left languishing on waiting lists.
Ms Champion explained how Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) hold NHS responsibility for commissioning specialist voluntary sector services but said the Department for Health holds no records on what they are commissioning.
The report makes a series of practical recommendations to Government to improve the lives of survivors including: a strategic fund in the upcoming Spending Review to transform Government’s response to child sexual abuse; NHS action to ensure CCG funding for the specialist voluntary sector nationally; a nationwide public health campaign to raise awareness and provide information to survivors and professionals; and guidance and training for frontline professionals on how to respond to survivors’ needs.