6mn UK adults suffered abuse as children – crime study

© Darren Staples
Up to six million adults in the UK say they suffered emotional, physical or sexual abuse as children, a new study has found.

The crime survey study of England and Wales carried out by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that up to half a million adult women and 100,000 adult males had been raped.

Of those individuals 33,000 had been victims of rape or attempted rape before the age of nine, the figures indicate. It was the first time a question on abuse had been included in the survey.

There also appeared to be a class dynamic at play with sexual abuse more likely to have been a feature in the childhoods of middle class professionals.

Working class people, it was found, were more likely to have suffered physical or psychological abuse.

For those who had suffered sexual abuse it was most likely that it had been inflicted by family members, acquaintances or people otherwise known to them.

Three out of every four victims of sexual violence said they had not reported the abuse for fear of embarrassment.

We as a society are not acknowledging these levels of sexual abuse. We do not talk about the sexual abuse of half a million women who were children when they were victims of rape or attempted rape,” clinical psychologist Dr Elly Hanson told the Times.

We need to acknowledge it and tackle it head on,” she added.

Hanson also said that the long-term implications of abuse must be kept in mind.

Child abuse is the hidden major contributor to a host of societal problems including substance abuse, self-harm and suicidality, mental health and anxiety problems,” she said.

A spokesperson for the NSPCC told the paper: “Including historic abuse for the first time in ONS figures confirms the horrifying fact that a vast number of adults were abused as children.

The survey is an important step towards gauging the true level of child abuse.