Key facts about Childhood Sexual Abuse (CSA) – Australian Institute of Family Studies

  • CSA is a profoundly hidden form of harm.
  • Predominantly perpetrated by someone known to the victim, which makes disclosure difficult.
  • A delay in disclosing the abuse until victims are adults is the rule rather than the exception.
  • CSA is gendered: most CSA victims are female.
  • However, a larger proportion of victims of CSA in institutional settings are males.
  • Many effects are long-term. Addressing them requires intensive and sustained interventions and supports across a range of different domains of wellbeing – particularly when the abuse has been ongoing or repeated.
  • For male victims, social expectations about masculinity can be strong barriers to disclosing the abuse and to seeking support from services.

Effective interventions

A variety of interventions have been developed to address the therapeutic needs of CSA victims. Most that have been developed and evaluated focus on:

  • Addressing the mental health impacts of CSA and the impacts for victims in their relationships with partners, families and children; and
  • The earlier stages of healing (i.e. developing skills to manage trauma reactions and learning to process and make sense of trauma memories).

No single type of intervention has been evaluated as being the most effective, although group interventions (alone or combined with individual therapy) often have the most positive outcomes.
Relatively little research is available about what interventions exist or would be effective in addressing victims’ needs in relation to employment, education, or other socio-economic needs.