As noted last week, the IICSA held the second event in its research seminar series. It began with a presentation and discussion of a Rapid Evidence Assessment (“REA”) which had been completed by the IICSA’s Research Team into the impact of CSA on victims, their families and society as a whole. The aim of the REA was to draw conclusions from the body of the academic literature, and to identify areas of further research.

The REA concluded that the impact on victims and survivors was complex and multifaceted, with survivors facing an increased risk of adversity in respect of their physical and mental health, external behaviours, relationships and socio-economic outcomes, not only in the short and medium term, but throughout their lifetimes. Much of the REA’s findings were echoed during panel discussion and from comments from victims and survivors in the public gallery. Some of the most thought provoking aspects of the presentation and subsequent discussions were:

  • Beyond the physical injuries associated with abuse, the literature and the panel identified links between victims and obesity, as well as both physical and emotional issues surrounding child birth, which acted as a trigger for emotional decline.
  • The literature and anecdotal discussion identified victims often experience or present with chronic health problems and as such victims access healthcare services 20% more frequently than others in society.
  • The link between CSA and emotional and mental health problems was clearly established both in the literature and in discussion. The statistics within the literature are telling; 57% of young people who experienced Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) suffer with depression, 37% of victims suffer with generalised anxiety disorder, 73% of victims suffer with PTSD, 32% of victims of CSE experienced self-harm and victims are six times more likely to commit suicide than the population at large.
  • As a consequence of maladaptive coping strategies there are links between CSA abuse and negative external behaviours such as drug misuse, risky sexual behaviours and offending – with victims being 1.4 times more likely to have contact with the police. This was eloquently raised by victims within the public gallery who urged the IICSA to consider the victims within the prison system and their needs.
  • The literature identified evidence of both a reduction in educational engagement but also cases of increased attainment where learning was used as a coping strategy. Overall the literature showed victims were more likely to be unemployed, in receipt of benefits and experience greater economic instability. Victims within the public gallery urged the panel to consider the link between victims and homelessness and to ensure this community was considered when considering services.

The REA identified a number of risk and protective factors which either helped or hindered a victim’s resilience and recovery. These factors included:

  • The character of the victim, their emotional state, beliefs and attitudes. A member of the panel said that for instance his religion had been a factor within his recovery.
  • The circumstances of the abuse including the age of the victim and the identity of the perpetrator. In particular the panel discussed the difficulties associated with the recovery of victims with learning and developmental disabilities, especially where the abuse had taken place within a care home setting.
  • The victim’s interpersonal relationships, particularly with caregivers, partners and peers. Members of the panel spoke of the importance both of supportive partners and children in their recovery, but also the value of friendship and survivors groups.
  • The experience of disclosure to professionals and the experience of other services. Victims within the panel discussed their negative experiences when disclosing to professionals within the state run healthcare system or to the police.

In respect of the impact on the wider society as a whole the REA presentation focused upon the financial impact identified within a NSPCC study, which calculated the cost of CSA in the UK to be approximately £3.2 billion per annum, consisting of:

  • Costs to the health system: £182 million
  • Costs in the Criminal Justice system: £149 million
  • Costs in respect of children services: £424 million
  • Costs to the labour market: £2.7 billion

The researchers concluded CSA was an issue that the UK could not afford to ignore.

Following the presentation there were three panel discussions – details of which and the important issues they raised, will follow on this blog over the next few days.