We need to talk about childhood sexual abuse

You might be wondering why we need to talk about childhood sexual abuse

Young girl wear blue denim jacket and jeans. Sitting on ground elbows on knees and hands over face
Childhood sexual abuse – most victims don’t tell

Content/Trigger Warning: Please be advised, this article mentions trauma-related topics which could potentially be triggering. The Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) 2019, estimated that 7.5% of adults aged 18 to 74 years experienced childhood sexual abuse before the age of 16 years (3.1 million people). This includes both adult and child perpetrators. That’s why we need to talk about it! This is the fourth in a series talking about child abuse.

Child sexual abuse statistics

“The majority of victims did not tell anyone about their sexual abuse at the time. ‘Embarrassment‘ being the most common reason”, according to The Office for National Statistics (ONS) 2020. So, if victims are unable to tell or talk, someone else needs to! If no one talks about childhood sexual abuse, it will carry on. Trust me. Perpetrators will be free to continue to abuse our children.

Other figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) include:

  • The abuse was most likely to have been perpetrated by a friend or acquaintance (37%); around a third (30%) were sexually abused by a stranger.
  • In the year ending March 2019, the police in England and Wales recorded 73,260 sexual offences where there are data to identify the victim was a child.
  • At 31 March 2019, 2,230 children in England were the subject of a child protection plan (CPP) and 120 children in Wales were on the child protection register (CPR) for experience or risk of sexual abuse.
  • Sexual abuse has become the most common type of abuse counselled by Childline in recent years; it was also the most commonly reported type of abuse by adults calling the National Association for People Abused in Childhood’s (NAPAC’s) helpline in the year ending March 2019.

Are you shocked?

Black & white photo young girl head in hands
Emotions in childhood sexual abuse include sad, anger, rage, fear, hurt, disgust

If these figures don’t shock you, I don’t know what will. Anyone who’s experienced childhood sexual abuse might not be shocked by the numbers. However, I’m sure they’ll have a varied and wide range of other emotions; extreme sadness — both for the other victims and themselves, hurt or fear, disgust, anger, possibly rage. They probably feel shame, dirty, or bad and have low self-esteem.

What is child sexual abuse (CSA)?

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), offers this explanation: “When a child or young person is sexually abused, they’re forced or tricked into sexual activities. They might not understand that what’s happening is abuse or that it’s wrong. And they might be afraid to tell someone. Sexual abuse can happen anywhere – and it can happen in person or online.

It’s never a child’s fault they were sexually abused – it’s important to make sure children know this.”

Types of sexual abuse

The following information is from The NSPCC in the UK, who say “there are 2 types of sexual abuse – contact and non-contact abuse. And sexual abuse can happen in person or online.

Contact abuse

Youth head leaning on forearm, crying
Child sexual abuse can happen to anyone, including young boys and youths

is where an abuser makes physical contact with a child. This includes:

  • sexual touching of any part of a child’s body, whether they’re clothed or not.
  • using a body part or object to rape or penetrate a child.
  • forcing a child to take part in sexual activities.
  • making a child undress or touch someone else.
  • contact abuse can include touching, kissing and oral sex – sexual abuse isn’t just penetrative.

Non-contact abuse

is where a child is abused without being touched by the abuser. This can be in person or online and includes:

  • exposing or flashing.
  • showing pornography.
  • exposing a child to sexual acts.
  • making them masturbate
  • forcing a child to make, view or share child abuse images or videos.
  • making, viewing or distributing child abuse images or videos.
  • forcing a child to take part in sexual activities or conversations online or through a smartphone.

Signs of sexual abuse

Young boy leaning on bridge just staring out
Know the signs of child sexual
abuse — Image from Sunsplash

Emotional and behavioural signs:

  • Avoiding being alone with or frightened of people or a person they know.
  • Language or sexual behaviour you wouldn’t expect them to know.
  • Having nightmares or bed-wetting.
  • Alcohol or drug misuse.
  • Self-harm.
  • Changes in eating habits, making themselves sick or developing an eating problem.

Physical signs might include:

  • Bruises.
  • Bleeding, discharge, pains or soreness in their genital or anal area.
  • Sexually transmitted infections.
  • Pregnancy.

If a child is being or has been sexually abused online, they might:

Child sexual abuse can happen online — Photo by Unsplash
  • spend a lot more or a lot less time than usual online, texting, gaming or using social media.
  • seem distant, upset or angry after using the internet or texting.
  • be secretive about who they’re talking to and what they’re doing online or on their mobile phone.
  • have lots of new phone numbers, texts or email addresses on their mobile phone, laptop or tablet.

Children and young people might also drop hints and clues about the abuse. If an adult responsible for caring for a child is suspected of sexually abusing a child, the local child protection services should be contacted.  If an adult not in a caregiving position with a child is suspected of sexual abuse, the local police should be notified. Concerns about child pornography can be reported to either the local police or:

To report abuse in the UK:

Call The NSPCC on 0808 800 5000, email help@nspcc.org.uk or fill in their online form.

Big red question mark with little white man standing against it thinking

I’ll end here for now — I’m sure you’ll appreciate, it’s a tough topic to research and write about, particularly if you’ve experienced childhood sexual abuse. Next post will cover what to do, who’s at risk and more support agencies. In the meantime, I’m happy to answer any questions and look forward to reading your comments.

One last thought: if you’ve been affected by any of the above, please talk to someone – tell a friend, speak to your GP or find a therapist. You don’t have to suffer alone, you are not alone.

Author: mentalhealth360.uk

Mum to two amazing sons. Following recovery from a lengthy psychotic episode, depression, anxiety and anorexia, I decided to train as a Mental Health Nurse and worked successfully in various settings before becoming a Ward Manager. I am a Mental Health First Aid Instructor and a Mental Health Awareness Trainer, Mental Health First Aid Youth and Mental Health Armed Forces Instructor. Just started my mental health from the other side blog.

43 thoughts on “We need to talk about childhood sexual abuse”

  1. The child is never ever to blame! Everybody should know that and fully understand it.
    What a difficult topic to write about. You made an excellent post! <3

    1. Thank you again. Your right about ‘child never to be blamed’, And it’s also important that the child is believed – the first time they tell someone cos not being believed is awful, x

      1. That can be enough to never tell it again. Always believe the child, I don’t know what other option there would be.

  2. There is such an upsurge in child sexual abuse that it is terrifying. Parents some times commit such dumb mistakes that it is unbearable to forgive them. In this internet era there is a lot to worry about. Some times when a child suffering from an abuse speaks out to their friends, the friends start blaming them and tell them that they are weak. A lot of awareness spread among children may help them fight this battle.

    Your post was really very informative and insightful. Thanks and have a good day 🙂

    Do check out my blog. There is some travel and lifestyle content that you might find interesting. Do follow if you like it 🙂

    1. Ha, beat you to it – been looking at your blog, particularly the 10 sunny places in the world. I’d love to visit that Hawaiin Island. My son lives in San Diego and when this virus is all over we’re going to visit him and go to Hawaii too so I’ll be back to look at your blog – of course, I’ve followed 🙂

      Stay safe and well. Caz

  3. I absolutely hate this subject with a passion. It makes me sick!!!

    Obviously my abuse was not as severe as some people’s…

    It is horrible to grow up, only having a father to turn to about all your girly type things, and at the same time he uses that trust to abuse you.

    My father didn’t want me to find out what he was up to and tried to get away with it while I was sleeping.
    But I kept waking up, wondering what he was doing in my room at night, and the excuses were running out, and the guilt in his voice showing more and more.

    I would find my worn underwear in his bedroom, and wonder what it was doing there or wonder even how it got there.

    What I also learnt is that they often groom you over time, and gain your trust. They see what they can get away with.

    I was shy and he said he was wanting me to become more confident. For example, he told me what things to wear, how to sit, stand etc… took photos of me, and he used to move my head and tell me how and where to look… and I didnt know why or what was going on, it just became something I was accustomed to, he said so I can have nice photos for online. (The internet was only starting then).

    He then got me to meet a few young men for dates, one I went to cinema with, who I had never met before off internet, who I had only talked to a few times online and he wanted to meet. And then once I got them infatuated with me, he would demand I come home immediately, often leaving them wondering what an earth was going on or where I had gone.

    I have no idea why he used to do this.

    He would tell me to go take a walk on my own, outside…around the block, with tight clothing on…but I never knew why, it never made sense…he would literally make me…

    I still don’t really get it all…

    I kept finding more and more clues around the house that he was abusing me like hidden tiny speakers, (which were like a makeshift microphone) near my bed, that I followed the wires along carefully concealed down and underneath the carpets, along to his bedroom one day.

    I realise he had had a few conversations telling me that I should masturbate and how, as I was not doing anything like that and all girls my age should be doing it. I felt really uncomfortable about it all. I didn’t want to touch myself.

    He wouldn’t let me have any privacy. And would come in while I was dressing/undressing. He would feel up my top sometimes and just laugh, and stuff.

    He would ask me to get him pants and a towel, when he was in shower, then start having a conversation with me, while he was washing himself, and showing everything…it was gross!

    He had an encoded diary with my name tons of times in it…or he had photos of just me or me and did tons of copies of them.

    He even pretended to be like an admirer, someone in love with me who had watched me for years, and wrote love letters to me, and I was all flattered trying to work out who it was. The letters were all in capitals and had instructions, like to go over to the park and sit on the swings…holding the letter he sent, or to put up different coloured squares up in my bedroom window, as each square meant something different. And I would rack my brain and tell him who it could be, and he would even play the part, taking me to the police and feigning concern…
    That is how sneaky he was. The mind games were unbelievable…and you would not believe the lengths someone would go to…

    But over time I was forced to come to terms with it all.

    So in my case it was all kept hush hush, and I had no real evidence. Nothing could be exactly traced to him. So nobody would believe anything I said. And everyone thought my dad was great.

    But for me,it was a horrible nightmare that never seemed to end.

    I never knew what to believe. I cannot tell you what stuff like this does to your trust, your self esteem, your whole being…

    1. I hate this topic too, I hate, hate, hate it! And that’s why I chosen to talk about it – out loud this time!.
      I’m sad for you too, I feel your pain! and it’s how the abuse impacts on a person that’s important, not if yours was worse or theirs was worse 🙁
      It’s terrible what you went through and your father did despicable things and put you through so much pain, how cruel can a person be?
      No wonder you want to keep your blog/writing hidden, I can see now why you’re so scared of him finding you! I can only imagine how you might feel but I do know how I feel about it all – it makes me feel physically sick!
      Did you have counselling? how did you manage to comes to terms with it? Do you have any thoughts, tips or advice for others
      who might be reading?
      You take care and stay well 🙂 Caz xx

      1. Yes it makes me feel ill too.
        But difficult subjects must be faced.
        Like abuse, suicide, etc…
        I have addressed mine somewhat through counselling. Bits of it I guess.
        But more of the puzzle has come together over time. I see the larger picture now than I did before. I am older now.

        With understanding, knowledge and time, I get now that he needed power and control over me. That is what it comes down to. This is what all abusers need.

        Learning about narcissism, NPD, Narcissists/Sociopaths has been beneficial, for these are the biggest type of abusers by far. They do not feel regret, or have a conscience or can even feel guilt. That is how they can do and commit these terrible things.

        I came to terms with it slowly, over time, with much pain, blood, sweat and tears…but it is a journey, and through that journey, as long as your environment is healthy from then on, and you have love and support, then you will gradually heal.
        Your brain will process the damage. It will come through in stages. It will be very painful, but it is the body’s way of dealing with it all.

        With criminal investigations, the investigator often needs to learn what goes on in the mind of these type people, and learn what is behind the behaviours, and why….

        I have through time, learnt what these type of people are, and why they do what they do. It was hard to learn. Because it goes against what we feel in every way. We don’t want to even go there…

        Even though I didnt want to go there, I needed to learn…I needed answers…as there are many things that did not make sense….

        This helped me a lot over the last few years. I do not know everything, but I know enough, for things to fit.

        What often amazes me even more is that despite all the abuse I have suffered, and this is common with many who have been abused is: they are still very much drawn to this type of people, (not child abusers but other sorts), with their charm, confidence and magnetism, which often this type have and so it helped me understand myself more too.

        Tips and advice?

        I hate myself for saying this, but H.G. Tudor’s site – Knowing the Narcissist, helped me to understand what it is that this type need and why they do what they do.
        They are not all child abusers, but many will abuse still in other ways, either family members and/or partners etc. But they are all after power and control.
        They get this through abusing others in different ways.

        (Read his work as an information source…but keep your distance as “he” can be rather addictive).

        Learn, and protect yourself!

        And then just do whatever you need to heal… whether that’s therapy, writing, travelling etc then do these things, keep learning, get on with your life, and don’t let these ones whoever they are or were in your life, darken your natural light and love.
        The thing is we can heal. They cannot. That is the difference!

        We prove by being the people we are, that they could not destroy us and that we are the stronger people by far, so much so, it puts them to shame!
        Deep down they KNOW this…

        Don’t ever give up no matter how painful.

        Just take one day at a time.

        Be patient with yourself.

        You WILL get there!

      2. Aaawww, bless you my lovely. You write beautifully! I did take a look at his site a while ago when you mentioned his name. But I might pop back and see it again. Thanks for the tip on narcissistic. I know, you’re completely right about choosing charismatic men who fool everyone. Each relationship, I eventually finished but guess what, any time between 6-9 months they were begging me to come back! What, they think I sat around waiting for them? No, I did you you say, I travelled far and wide, had fun and enjoyed myself. I used to wonder if there was something wrong with me, why did they all bully me, treat me bad – but then I thought, why would they want me back if I was a bad, horrible person?

        Nope, I’ll never give up learning, living and travelling. I hear of them all now and they’re still a mess 😉

        Big hugs xxx

      3. Yes, that is the thing…this type cannot help but go around in the same circles or cycles as it were. And yes they will come back to hoover you. Give Tudor my regards… he will remember “Tiger chelle”.

        The Narcissists’s come back not because they love us, but because they miss how we made them feel, which they cannot provide for themselves.

        The next thing that has helped me, is seeing the bigger picture, as on a worldwide scene, and a hope for future…
        *JW.ORG* and reading the information there. Listening to talks, etc…
        There is help for families, children, couples, teenagers, on abuse, anxiety, death, you name any subject, there will be a plethora of bible based information there, translated into thousands of different languages! Just type any subject into the search…

        There is no other site like this!

        Therefore, I can only tell you what has grounded and protected me from myself even, and stopped me from completely going over the edge as might well have happened if I had not have studied the bible.
        It is still not easy, and problems will always be there of course, as that is the world we live in, but
        it helps to have answers, and principles to live by.

        Well done you Caz on keeping control of your life and healing!

        You are a lovely, strong individual and I’m sorry for getting so emotional and angry at times…

        Hugs to you xxx

      4. Hey, it’s okay to get emotional and angry at times and you don’t have to apologise at all. You write, say or think whatever you want on my blog or yours 🙂

        I’ve emailed you too 🙂 Have a lovely Saturday night 🙂 xx

      5. Thank you, so much Caz. Xx

        I’m overwhelmed today actually, with my soon to be – new therapist, who has been emailing most of day with me for FREE I might add, (what therapist would do that) and he just through a piece of his book, got me to understand finally what is going on in my head all these years…

        It’s so profound! I literally cannot believe it!!!! I’ve been searching for ways to understand myself and desperately seeking answers, and finally came across someone who has and can understand not only what is going on but knows how to treat it.

        My mind is literally blown!

        You have a good Saturday eve too… xx

      6. I’m really pleased for you Sweetheart, he sounds great and I really hope you get something from it on Monday. It sounds like he’s able to you at ease, so that’s a start 🙂 x

  4. Years later. Before my father got remarried much later, I tried to warn the woman he was going to marry, and wanted her to know the truth….and it caused arguments, and her to be upset,… told her what went on, but my father won her over with his charm.
    He convinced her I was making stories up just to get him in trouble, because I was jealous. He has convinced other family members over too, and made them either betray me or not want anything to do with me.

    The amount of anger, hatred, and total disgust I have for this person is unbelievable. He has wrecked my life and got away with it…

    1. Oh my word – stupid woman. How can she not believe you? How can she be with him knowing what he did? As for your dad telling family that you were making up lies or stories!!!
      Oh, I understand the anger, hatred and disgust – I have that too. And I also wish it would just go the hell away. It never leaves does it! xx

  5. very very well done for talking about sexual abuse .peoples views/judgements are very Snotty Nosed .i am Disabled was abused sexually as a child .different adults took turns on me .. i have M.E . Bladder and Bowel problems BECAUSE i was abused .i am not afraid too say .not afraid to talk about it . my story of abuse is in a Authors book
    my blog.http;//mark-kent.webs.com

    i take part in a lot lot research…..research into Abuse is very RARE .yet SO EFFECTING

  6. It’s a painful subject, but it’s one that needs to be raised. I can see the lies people have told themselves behind the statements you make to clarify what should be obvious: children are not to blame for being abused and it does count even if it wasn’t a direct, physical act.

    1. It’s never a nice topic and it’s painful to read but yes, people need to be aware – it can happen right under your nose. We need to be talking to our children (my grandchildren) about these things so it never happens to them x

  7. This is a taboo subject to talk about in Asia. It is sad. Child sexual abuse is often by someone close and trusted like a family member. The child will carry the scars for life, forever. Thank you for highlighting this. I swear when I gave birth that I will always protect my child and never doubt her words ever. I rather believe her lies than brush away the truths.

    1. Oh of course, no one was ever going to hurt my sons. They’re our babies and have to be protected. I really don’t understand what it is the paedophiles! Urgh! x

  8. Because for many years, this has been a no topic, recently we can sense a real rose of now adults seeking therapy because they were victims of sexual abuse in the past, and the truth is it is time to talk about abuse because it can be performed in many ways, not just sexual.

    Have one wonderful Sunday! 🙂

  9. I avoided in type of talking about regarding childhood sexual abuse. But it was the identifying situations that hindered normal growth for me. The beginning of developing coping mechanisms. In reality I tried to ignore that part of my life but later I was raped and got pregnant and had my child. Raised him now for 21 years. A rape later a family member sold me for drugs. I realized once I saw signs two of my children through time may have been sexually abused I realized I had to confront my abuse to do right by their abuse.

    It’s shameful to speak about. My parents didn’t believe me. Even my rape and pregnancy my mom said I lied about because I was a slut that just didn’t want to admit I did t know the father. That hurts to a deeper level your own mother denies your abuse.

    I think the biggest reason I need to talk about it is I can not only identify sexual misconduct in my children but warning signs. That they can come to me; bc I couldn’t go to my mom. That’s i needed to make damn sure they knew I was there adversary and tell me the nasty dirt and shameful truth that I would never judge them or doubt them.

    In this way I’ve overcome rapes but I struggle with the missing memory of childhood sexual abuse and I think that I need to remember so I know why I developed significance and not common coping mechanisms.

    1. I’m so sorry to hear of the terrible things that were done to you. And it’s a terrible thing when parents don’t believe their own children. I just don’t understand that. I was lucky, I didn’t have to go through that. I told no one until some years later and my poor mum was devastated. But she listened and never judged.

      Oh my, and to call you bad names like that. I don’t know how you have coped with all of that. I hear you – saying you developed coping mechanisms, cos that’s what we do. And they’re often not healthy and can lead to mental health problems, which along with others things is how I ended up unwell. But if you’ve read any of my other posts, you’ll find all that stuff there.

      And this is why many people take to blogging, to write it all down as though it will get out of my head. Oh, but I wish it was that simple.

      Like you, I was protective of my now adult sons and watched out for everything. So it sounds like you’ve done a great job there, so be proud of that.

      Do you still keep in touch with your family? Are any of them supportive? I really hope you someone you can talk it through with. And you’ll always find great support here in the blogging community. So if you need to talk, I’m here. In the meantime, you look after yourself my lovely. Caz x

  10. Trauma from unchecked toxic abuse, sexual or otherwise, usually results in the helpless child’s brain improperly developing. If allowed to continue for a prolonged period, it acts as his/her starting point into an adolescence and (in particular) an adulthood in which its brain uncontrollably releases potentially damaging levels of inflammation-promoting stress hormones and chemicals, even in non-stressful daily routines. It can make every day an emotional/psychological ordeal, unless the mental turmoil is doused with some form of lead-ball-and-chain-addiction self-medicating.

    Intense addiction usually does not originate from a bout of boredom, where a person repeatedly consumed recreationally but became heavily hooked on an unregulated often-deadly chemical that eventually destroyed their life and even that of a loved-one. Serious psychological trauma, typically adverse childhood experiences, is normally behind a substance (ab)user’s constant self-medicating. The addiction likely resulted from his/her attempt at silencing through self-medicating the pain of serious life trauma or PTSD.

    The wellbeing of all children — and not just what other parents’ children might/will cost us as future criminals or costly cases of government care, etcetera — should be of great importance to us all; and this regardless of whether we’re doing a great job with our own developing children, especially considering the very troubled world into which they never asked to enter.

    “It has been said that if child abuse and neglect were to disappear today, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual would shrink to the size of a pamphlet in two generations, and the prisons would empty. Or, as Bernie Siegel, MD, puts it, quite simply, after half a century of practicing medicine, ‘I have become convinced that our number-one public health problem is our childhood’.” (Childhood Disrupted, pg.228).

    1. You’re right, “brain uncontrollably releases potentially damaging stress hormones and chemicals, even in non-stressful daily routines.” And I know that’s why I find it difficult when small things caqn trigger a rage in me! It’s not an excuse and some might say I lean towards BPD but I’d say it’s complex PTSD.

      I saw my aunt become a park drinker and I helped to raise her children so it put me off alcohol and my ex used drugs so I was put off them too.

      Oh how I agree with you about preventing future costs (both financially and emotionally) of caring for potential delinquents/young uncared for adults. I also believe that if we bring children into this world, we should do right by them. Even tho’ my adult sons are grown and have wife/girlfriend, I’m their parent and I will always be there for them! They owe me nothing! I brought them into the world and it’s my responsibility to ensure they have the skills and wherewithal to deal with life’s problems!

      I know others might disagree but that’s just how I feel.

      And of course, if our children never experienced any kind of abuse, they too would ensure their children never did.

      Thank you for your well-thought out comments and know that I appreciate your voice. Caz x

      1. “And I know that’s why I find it difficult when small things can trigger a rage in me!”

        I’m similar, though my “small things” can too easily ruin my day, or worse.

        My own experience has revealed that notable adverse childhood experience trauma resulting from a highly sensitive and low self-confidence existence — especially when its effect is amplified by an accompanying autism spectrum disorder — can readily lead an adolescent to a substance (ab)use disorder. This, of course, can also lead to an adulthood of debilitating self-medicating. As a highly sensitive child, teenager and adult with ASD — an official condition with which I greatly struggled yet of which I was not even aware until I was a half-century old — compounded by a high ACE score, I largely learned this for myself from my own substance (ab)use experience. The self-medicating method I utilized during most of my pre-teen years, however, was eating.

        Autism spectrum disorder accompanied by adverse childhood experience trauma — unchecked chronic bullying, for example — can readily lead to chronic substance abuse as a form of self-medicating. If the ASD adolescent is also highly sensitive, both the drug-induced euphoria and, conversely, the come-down effect or return to their burdensome reality will be heightened thus making the substance-use more addicting.

        Since so much of our mental health comes from our childhood experiences, mental health-care should generate as much societal concern — and government funding — as does physical health, even though psychological illness/dysfunction typically is not immediately visually observable.

      2. I am so sorry for not responding sooner. I haven’t been keeping well.

        I agree with your comments and I’ve said for so many years – that mental health issues ought to be raised in schools (and not by teachers but by specialists) from a young age so that children find it easier to discuss the problems early and be helped/supported through them. I think we’d have much healthier teenagers and young adults.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Verified by MonsterInsights