Sex abuse victims more likely to be unemployed, sick or disabled, study finds

Men who suffer sex abuse as a child are three times more likely to be unemployed in their later years because of sickness or disability, a study has revealed.

Research on a long-running survey of thousands of older people aged between 50 and 64 estimates that the impact of sexual attacks in their youth leaves men in households a third less well off.

Older men who have survived the experience are also twice as likely to be living alone than men who were not victims.

Government backed think-tank, the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) drew the shattering conclusions after examining data from a survey of thousands of older people in The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (Tilda), based at Trinity College.

The review of 8,500 self-completed questionnaires from people aged over 50, found 5.6% of men and 6.7% of women reported suffering sexual abuse as a child.

In the 50-64 age group, 17% of men and 14% of women who survived the experience were out of work because they were classed as permanently sick or disabled.

Among those who were not victims of child sex abuse the rate is 8% and 6% respectively.

The ESRI said that when it took factors like age and education into account there is a disparity between men who suffered sex abuse and those who did not, with survivors three times more likely to affected by long-term sickness or disability.

The think-tank also said its review of the questionnaires shows older men who have survived child abuse end up living in households with 34% less income than other men.

Report author Alan Barrett said the figures go some way to understanding the lifelong impact of child sex abuse.

“Studies on the impact of CSA have tended to be undertaken by researchers in the fields of health and psychology,” he said.

“This study is somewhat unique both nationally and internationally because we look at the lifelong economic impact these experiences have had on survivors.

“We find significant impacts even though we are looking at people aged between 50 and 64 who experienced abuse over 30 years earlier as children.”

Mr Barrett said the results should also be relevant to appropriate compensation for survivors.

“The results put a figure on the scale of lost income and this could be used when calculating compensation for survivors,” he said.

The ESRI research looked at data from the first wave of the Tilda surveys.

Between 2009 and 2011, 8,500 people aged 50 and over and living in Ireland were interviewed about a wide range of issues such as income, wealth, labour force status and health.

The self-completed questionnaires also asked questions about sexual abuse suffered before the age of 18.

Deirdre Kenny, advocacy director with the One in Four support organisation, said the findings from the research were familiar to people working with survivors.

“In terms of the impact, especially in relation to men, it is something that we would see on a daily basis,” she said.

“Traditionally men come forward much later in life. Often it’s not until there’s a significant change or development in their life, maybe a divorce or the death of a parent, that they seek help for something, maybe depression.”

Ms Kenny added: “I think men are much more isolated and are much more slower in dealing with something personal and emotional.

“There’s a fear of not being believed, a huge amount of guilt, shame, there’s the anxiety and depression for years beforehand.”

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