Child abuse: One in 14 adults 'abused as children' in England and Wales

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One in every 14 adults in England and Wales suffered sexual abuse as a child, a survey suggests.

According to the Crime Survey for England and Wales, about 11% of women and 3% of men said they had been sexually assaulted during childhood.

The Office for National Statistics introduced new questions about childhood abuse in 2016's survey, which was released on Thursday.

Some 35,000 adults and 3,000 children were questioned for the report.

The survey also suggested that 567,000 females aged between 16 and 59, and 102,000 males in the same age bracket, had experienced "sexual assault by rape or penetration" when they were children.

The report also found:

  • Apart from sexual abuse, 9% of adults said they had suffered psychological abuse and 7% physical abuse
  • Some 8% said they had witnessed domestic violence or abuse at home
  • Other than in physical abuse cases, women were "significantly" more likely to report they had been an abuse victim than men
  • Rape and penetration attack survivors said the most likely attacker was a friend or acquaintance (30%) or other family member (26%)
  • For other types of sexual assault, victims said the most common perpetrator was a stranger (42%)
  • Boys were most likely to be abused aged 11 and girls at age 14

The report also found that three in four victims of these assaults said they did not report what happened at the time, most commonly because of "embarrassment or humiliation, or thinking that they would not be believed".

Javed Khan, chief executive of children's charity Barnardo's, said: "The sheer scale of those who reported witnessing or being abused as children is utterly staggering. It is everyone's responsibility to keep children safe."

Calls for action

An NSPCC spokeswoman said the report "confirms the horrifying fact that a vast number of adults were abused as children and that many told no-one about the ordeal they had suffered".

She added: "Whilst it's crucial that those who have suffered are heard and the perpetrators of these awful crimes are brought to justice, the authorities' primary focus must be on identifying those who are enduring abuse right now, helping them rebuild their lives, and catching offenders to stop them from inflicting even more harm."

Norfolk Chief Constable Simon Bailey, the National Police Chiefs' Council lead for child protection, said police would continue to encourage any victims of child abuse to report it "in the knowledge that they will be listened to, believed and an impartial investigation launched".

Labour MP Sarah Champion called on the government to take action over the findings, saying: "If we are to prevent another generation growing up with the consequences of widespread child abuse, we have to teach children how to protect themselves from abuse."

Safeguarding minister Sarah Newton said the government had "done more than any other to lift the lid on non-recent child sexual abuse and ensure the mistakes of the past are not repeated".

"We have also increased funding for violence against women and girls' services to £80m between now and 2020," she added.