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Sexual abuse


Sexual abuse of children is not a rare occurrence. It happens at all social levels, in all parts of the country, in all races and cultures. But despite increased public awareness, the true extent of child sexual abuse remains hidden.

Children who have been abused suffer feelings of guilt and shame, which can dramatically affect their lives as adults. They may experience long-term emotional and psychological problems, and difficulties in forming relationships later in life. Many feel little self esteem and often do not know how to show or receive affection without acting sexually. Relieving such trauma can take years of intensive work with the person who was abused as a child.

Sexual abuse facts

  • Most abusers are family members or well-known to those they abuse, with the abuse taking place in either the child’s home or that of the abuser.
  • Research has shown that fewer than 10 per cent of children abused are abused by strangers.
  • Studies of adult abusers have revealed averages of up to 380 crimes per offender.

Sexual abuse services

Barnardo’s runs projects and schemes across the country supporting children, young people and families where abuse has happened. These may offer therapy and counselling to help children come to terms with what has happened to them and move forward in life, and offer support to non-abusing parents to help them protect their children in future. Many services also help support children through court proceedings when perpetrators are prosecuted.

We also work to increase public awareness of sexual abuse and to help children and young people protect themselves.

Some of our sexual abuse projects