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lasting harm

Child sex abuse survivors far more likely to be disabled, poor and live alone in later life

Even when you take into account mental illness.

A MAJOR STUDY has found that childhood sexual abuse in Ireland does enormous economic and social damage to survivors, even well into later life.

The survey, conducted by the ESRI and Trinity College Dublin, found that Irish men and women who were sexually abused as children were more than twice as likely as others to be forced out of work by sickness in later life.

Among the other major findings:

  • Male CSA survivors are three times more likely than other men to be sick or disabled after the age of 50
  • Both men and women abused in childhood are more than twice as likely as others to be out of the workforce due to sickness or permanent disability
  • The household income of male CSA survivors is 34% lower than the average
  • Men abused as children are twice as likely to live alone after the age of 50, compared to other men.

Speaking to, one of the researchers, Alan Barrett, said that the study measures, for the first time, the sheer scale and durability of the economic devastation that CSA causes among survivors.

We had had a sense that being a survivor of child sexual abuse had long-term economic consequences, but now those effects have actually been quantified.

Significantly, the research controlled for mental health problems, and socioeconomic status in early life, which could otherwise have explained why CSA survivors suffer disproportionate economic harms.

Take, for example, two comparable people, with similar economic circumstances in childhood, and who both suffer from depression or other mental health problems.What the study found is that if one is a childhood sexual abuse survivor, and the other is not, the childhood sexual abuse survivor is still far more likely to have negative labour market outcomes.And this is 30 years or more after the abuse itself.

“The Long-Term Impact of Childhood Sexual Abuse on Incomes and Labour force Status” which is published in a short summary today, found that CSA was slightly more prevalent among women than it was among men (6.7% vs 5.6% of all those surveyed.)

Some 8% of men and 6% of women aged between 50 and 64, and who were not sexually abused as children, are forced to leave the labour force through sickness or permanent disability.

Shockingly, among CSA survivors those numbers rise to 17% of men and 14% of women.

The study was based on self-completed questionnaires handed in by 8,500 people aged 50 and over and living in Ireland, between 2009 and 2011.

The full research paper will be published at a later date in the Journal of Behavioural and Experimental Economics.

Get help:

  • CONNECT is a national telephone counselling service run by the HSE for adults who experienced abuse in childhood.
    Freephone: 1800-477-477

Read: HSE failing today’s child sex abuse victims with lack of counselling services>

It’s “never too late” to address sexual violence>

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