Out from the shadows

'Experiences Shared' from the Truth Project.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has released its final publication of Experiences Shared, an online anthology highlighting the accounts of more than 1,100 victims and survivors who came forward to the Inquiry’s Truth Project. 

The first of its kind in the UK, the collection has along with the thousands of other experiences shared with the Truth Project helped inform primary research regarding child sexual abuse as well as recommendations for change across the Inquiry’s 19 investigation reports. Survivors spoke of sexual abuse across multiple settings, the difficulties they’ve faced in speaking out and the devastating impacts of abuse on their lives. They emphasised the importance of a more open conversation on sexual abuse within society to spark cultural change.

For more than six years, the Truth Project provided an opportunity for survivors of child sexual abuse to share their experiences and make suggestions to help better protect children in future. The Truth Project came to a close in October last year so accounts shared can help to inform the Inquiry’s Final Report, which will be published later this year. 

Talking about sharing her experience with the Truth Project, Kayla says ‘I can’t really explain why I wanted to … it just felt comforting that there was something like this that I could feel heard’. 

Victims and survivors told the Truth Project about the struggles they faced in speaking out, describing fears of being stigmatised or not being believed. Helen says ‘Children are always in the wrong and adults are always in the right … if you’re a child in these institutions you’re not listened to’. 

Many spoke about the severe impact the sexual abuse has had across all aspects of their lives including relationships, education and work, as well as physical and mental health. For some, the effects have lasted years. Lucille would like a greater awareness that ‘the lives of sexually abused children are damaged not for weeks or months, but for decades’.

The experiences shared also describe changes that victims and survivors hope to see in future, such as better education, greater awareness and more open conversations about the effects of child sexual abuse.

Dr Rebekah Eglinton, Chief Psychologist to the Inquiry, said: “The Inquiry’s Truth Project was set up to learn from and amplify the voices of victims and survivors of child sexual abuse. On this day that we release the final publication of Experiences Shared, we stop and listen to what victims and survivors have to say. This anthology of survivor experiences bears witness to how the system failed to protect thousands of children and in many instances went on to fail them as adults seeking justice and support. 

“Their accounts have made a vital contribution to the Inquiry’s work, providing unprecedented insights on the impact of child sexual abuse, the themes across institutional failures as well as suggestions for change, to help protect future generations. 

“As we listen to these voices of experience and suffering, we also hear stories of courage and compassion and a challenge to society to talk more about child sexual abuse and take it out from the shadows. “

Find more about the Truth Project in our archive.

For help and support, access information on a range of organisations signposted on the Truth Project support page.

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