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United Kingdom

Around one in five adults were abused as children, first ever ONS analysis finds

Alexa Bradley, of the Centre for Crime and Justice at ONS, said: “Child abuse is an appalling crime against some of the most vulnerable in society, but it is also something that is little discussed or understood.

“Today’s release is ONS’s first attempt to fill an important evidence gap on this critical issue.

“Measuring the extent and nature of child abuse is difficult because it is usually hidden from view and comes in many forms. Bringing data together from different sources helps us better understand both the nature of child abuse and the potential demand on support services.”

The information from the crime survey estimates the prevalence of adults who experienced abuse before the age of 16 but does not measure the “current level” of child abuse in the country, the ONS added.

Around one in five adults were abused as children, according to the first ever analysis conducted by the official government statistics body. 

The research studies emotional, physical and sexual abuse - as well as domestic violence - from threats and belittlement to beatings and rape.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) data estimates that  8.5 million people aged between 18 and 74 were abused or witnessed abuse as children before the age of 16.

Around 14% of adults who called one charity helpline last year had not told anyone before.

The research was compiled using data from the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW), the Department for Education, the Welsh Government, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) and the National Association for People Abused in Childhood (Napac), which runs the helpline.

It aims to provide a better understanding of the scale and nature of the abuse of children.

The survey also estimated that 3.1 million were victims of sexual abuse before the age of 16 (2.4 million women and 709,000 men). This is equivalent to about one in 13 adults in this age bracket.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) examined existing data in an attempt to “provide a more complete picture” of the scale of child abuse in England and Wales for the first time.

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