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Analysis of abuse survivors’ Truth Project testimonies reveals mental-health concerns 

09 August 2021


ALMOST half the survivors of child sexual abuse who provided testimonies to the Truth Project reported that they suffered as a result from a condition, including depression, which affects everyday life — in some instances, decades after the abuse.

The analysis of accounts from 5440 survivors found 88 per cent suffered an impact on their mental health. Thirty seven per cent suffered from depression, and similar numbers report difficulty with forming intimate relationships.

The analysis was based on testimonies heard by the Truth Project, which was set up by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) as a space for people to speak up about their abuse — for many participants, for the first time.

Earlier analysis of submissions to the project are consistent with the latest findings. (News, 29 January).

Six per cent of the abuse reported to the project was carried out by clergy or others in a religious setting. Nearly half was carried out by a family member in the home, and 15 per cent was carried out in schools.

The majority of children were of primary-school age when the abuse began. Most of those subjected to sexual abuse also suffered physical and psychological abuse.

A further 80 personal and anonymised accounts from victims have been released by the project. Several of those made public involve abuse in a church setting, or by a minister or church member.

Dwayne was a member of the choir and an altar server in his church. He describes being abused from the age of 11 by a new priest, who had moved from a cathedral to Dwayne’s church. The abuse, he says, began on a church camping trip, and continued afterwards in the priest’s home and in the church. Dwayne was sometimes given money afterwards from the church collection plate.

Dwayne disclosed the abuse when he was 18 to his parents, and the church tried to hush it up. He later went to the police. The priest was charged, tried, and found not guilty.

The priest later received an accolade for his “outstanding contribution to the life and work of the Church”. Dwayne, who has been diagnosed with PTSD and depression, is seeking compensation from the Church of England.

Camila was raped, aged eight, in her family home by a member of her church. Her church attempted to mediate between her and her abuser, and Camila said that she was told to apologise to her abuser’s mother. She reported the abuse years later, and the perpetrator was convicted, but he was supported throughout the court case by members of her former church. She told the Truth Project that the church chose to protect itself and its reputation rather than support a child.

Dustin was abused by the vicar at a church where he was a chorister. The abuse continued until he was in his mid-teens. He reported it, he says, many years later to an archbishop — who has not been named — who questioned Dustin about his sexuality, and advised him to remain celibate.

Dustin was later ordained, but then suffered a breakdown and left the Church. He was informed by one bishop that he had been “blacklisted”. When he asked for his blue file containing his allegation of sexual abuse, he was told that it had been lost. He now feels that his life is “completely empty”, and regrets having had no family of his own.

The Truth Project is closing in October this year, but survivors who would like to write about their experiences for the project still have time to do so.


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