LGBTQ+ survivors of child sexual abuse blamed for what happened, report finds

A harrowing new report reveals the impact of child sexual abuse on LGBTQ+ victims and survivors.

Report finds that LGBTQ+ people are often blamed for their own child sexual abuse. The photograph shows a man sitting on a couch with his hand covering his eyes.
Image: Nik Shuliahin via Upsplash

Content Warning – This article reports difficult statistics regarding child sexual abuse which may impact some readers.

A groundbreaking new report published in the UK has found that many LGBTQ+ victims and survivors are often “blamed for their abuse” with accusations “that they were sexually abused because of their sexual orientation or gender identity”. The Inquiry also found that victims of child sexual abuse have suffered a lasting impact which has “severely damaged their self-identity and mental health”.

The Engagement with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/ questioning + victims and survivors Report 2022 was conducted by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) – an independent statutory body established in 2015 due to concerns that some organisations had failed and were continuing to fail to protect children from sexual abuse. 

The IICSA, which operates with the remit of informing law reform for the protection of children, surveyed 31 LGBTQ+ survivors of child sexual abuse as well as consulting with 29 of the country’s leading LGBTQ+ and victim support organisations.

The Inquiry found that “LGBTQ+ children face specific challenges that make them vulnerable to child sexual abuse” and “can face barriers which make it difficult to disclose child sexual abuse, access support and form adult relationships”.

The report shared, “We heard that many people were told, and often believed, that they wouldn’t be gay, transgender, asexual, etc. if they had not been sexually abused as children.” It continues, “Many men told us that when they were younger they had been accused of ‘inviting’ sexual abuse because they showed an interest in other men by being stereotypically ‘effeminate’”.

The report stressed the “myth” that “‘people who have been abused go on to abuse’” often stops “both gay and straight men from reporting or disclosing having been sexually abused” suggesting that this is “because they fear being thought of as ‘paedophiles’”.

The survey also found that “because LGBTQ+ people are seen as ‘different’ from the norm, it can be more difficult to disclose and report child sexual abuse, which has led to under-reporting of child sexual abuse by LGBTQ+ victims and survivors.” 

This has also led to “relevant support services” often being ill-equipped to support the unique needs of “LGBTQ+ victims and survivors,” meaning that those seeking help rely on “personal recommendation” instead of “professional referral”. 

“Many victims and survivors told us how essential professional support is, especially in cases where victims and survivors cannot depend on traditional support networks such as family, friends, religion or work colleagues, due to being excluded or hiding their sexual orientation or gender identity.” 

Noting the importance of providing adequate mental health support it stated: “We also heard that professionals who work with LGBTQ+ victims and survivors need specialised, high quality training and education in order to overcome cultural myths and stereotypes which can prevent victims and survivors from disclosing sexual abuse and accessing services. This training and education needs to specifically focus on being trauma informed and LGBTQ+ affirming.”

The full report can be found here.

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