Trigger warning: This article discusses historic child sexual abuse, which may be distressing to some readers.
Child sexual abuse survivors have come forward to share their experiences with the Truth Project, and figures reveal that almost half of survivors are disabled or have a life altering illness.
The Truth Project is part of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, offering victims and survivors the chance to be open and honest about their experiences in writing, over the phone or in person.
It is hoped that by getting a clearer picture of past incidents will allow for a safer world for children to live now and in the future.
At present, 4,000 survivors have come forward, with 3,646 personal accounts having been analysed at present.
Chris Tuck, a member of the Inquiry’s Victims and Survivors Consultative Panel, said: “Speaking as a survivor of child sexual abuse, the Truth Project provided a safe and supportive place for me to share my experience, and help contribute to change.
“I now live with PTSD, and physical pain related to mental distress, something which affects the way I live my life every day.
“If we are to protect children in the future, it’s important that we hear from everyone who has experienced abuse, to better understand the lasting impacts and help prevent it from ever happening again.”
For May Baxter Thornton, after being diagnosed with eczema at a very young age, it was as May grew into adulthood that she received debilitating diagnoses.
“As an adult I was tested for suspected multiple sclerosis, due to sporadic episodes of numbness throughout my body that could not be explained,” says May.
By the age of 35, May had been diagnosed with osteoarthritis in both knees and fibromyalgia soon after.
“You can almost map from the time my abuse started, something resulting in physical discomfort. An auto-immune disease is one in which your system mistakenly attacks your body, often as a failed attempt to repair it. It is this physical impact, as a direct result of child sexual abuse, which is overlooked and unseen.
“While of course there may be impacts on a person’s mental health, physical impacts are equally as relevant and important to be aware of,” adds May.
Now, figures from the Truth Project has highlighted that 47 per cent of survivors described a condition that limits their ability to carry out day-to-day activities, including blindness, problems with hearing, mobility and memory.
Furthermore, research also published in early January by the Office for National Statistics found that 7.5 percent of adults have experienced sexual abuse before the age of 16, and those with a disability were twice as likely to have experienced sexual abuse than those without a disability (13.4 percent and 6.6 percent respectively.)
Over 80 people with a disability who have experienced sexual abuse will have their stories shared.
People looking to come forward who are D/deaf/HoH can do so through the project’s dedicated sign language videos alongside options to attend private sessions. All reasonable adjustments will be met to ensure coming forward is as accessible as possible.
May says: “I chose to write my account for the Truth Project. By providing feedback this way, it can help to ease some of the pressures having a physical disability can bring.
“When disclosing very personal information in writing, the normal day to day worries about being fit and able to leave the house do not apply.
“You can send your information about how you were let down by institutions from the comfort of your own home. This was my choice, however, the Truth Project has been set up to allow for anyone to come to speak to us face to face, too,” concludes May.