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Adult victim/survivors of childhood sexual assault

Author(s)Fergus, Lara and Keel, Monique
Title Adult victim/survivors of childhood sexual assault
Source ACSSA Wrap No.1, Melbourne, 2005
Date 2005
Document type Research report
Coverage Australia
Summary This article explores our knowledge about adult victim/survivors of childhood sexual assault. A common definition of childhood sexual assault is discussed, followed by a consideration of the profile of the offender and the prevalence of the abuse. Four major sources of knowledge and data on childhood sexual assault are identified: population surveys, accounts by victims, clinical studies, and official data. The effects on victim/survivors are discussed, including psychological outcomes such as depression and anxiety disorders and adverse social outcomes. There are a small number of organisations around Australia providing counselling support for childhood sexual assault survivors but broadly speaking the service needs of adult survivors are overlooked and there is a need for further funding by governments to provide more and appropriate services. Further discussion in the article refers to the range of barriers to report childhood sexual assault such as fear of family breakdown, fear for their personal safety and a fear they would not be believed. Data suggests that reporting of past sexual assault has increased but only a small proportion of childhood sexual assault cases result in prosecution. Suggestions for future research include a need to evaluate therapeutic responses to the abuse for both children and adults so that appropriate services can be developed.
Keywords Sexual assault; child sexual assault; adult survivors; revictimisation; cost; experiences; criminal justice system; service provision.
Topic Sexual assault