Victims of Jimmy Savile were ignored and even "laughed at" when they tried to tell people that they had been sexually abused, a report has found.
A number were told that they were "lucky someone like Savile had paid them attention", according to findings from the NSPCC children's charity.
In a series of accounts described as "heart-rending", many said they stayed silent until the years after his death in 2011, because they did not think their word would be believed over that of the influential radio and TV presenter.
And a number of both men and women interviewed said they had still not been able to talk about what happened to friends or family.
Peter Watt, the NSPCC's director of national services, said: "The responses these victims received when they first revealed Savile's sickening crimes makes heart-rending reading.
"They were ignored, dismissed, not believed, laughed at and, astonishingly, told in some cases they should feel lucky he had paid them attention.
"Half a century on, the world finally discovered just how dreadful his crimes were - something these men and women had known all that time but felt powerless to do anything about.
"The anger, frustration and sheer helplessness of the situation obviously damaged their lives in various ways. But they showed true courage in coming forward once more to talk about their experiences and hopefully they can now start to put the terrible trauma behind them."
Savile died aged 84 in October 2011 - a year before allegations that he had sexually abused children were broadcast in an ITV documentary.
The revelations about the former BBC presenter of Top Of The Pops and Jim'll Fix It prompted hundreds of victims to speak out with claims that they were attacked at BBC premises or in other institutions, including hospitals.
All of the 26 victims interviewed by the NSPCC said they would not have come forward had they not seen the stories of other victims in the press.
According to the report, entitled "Would They Actually Have Believed Me?", some of the victims, who were aged between eight and 26 when Savile assaulted them, told hospital staff, who dismissed their claims.
One of those interviewed by the charity's counsellors went to the police but no action was taken. The vast majority were children when they were abused but four were adults.
The NSPCC said the research, which was commissioned by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary, highlighted the "devastating scars" that victims had suffered from the abuse, with some turning to drink and drugs to cope. Others have suffered mental illness, poor relationships or contemplated suicide, it said.
Her Majesty's Inspector Drusilla Sharpling said the report "vividly portrays the pain and anguish suffered by Savile's victims".
"Despite the difficulties they have faced, victims have highlighted important ways in which police responses can be improved," she added.
"We owe it to them to make sure that the police service responds positively and ensures victims are supported, listened to and treated with compassion."
Meanwhile, lawyers fighting for compensation for Savile victims were at the High Court today, and are understood to be seeking money that was left in Savile's will.
Liz Dux, a solicitor with law firm from Slater & Gordon, said outside court that the hearing "is not about amounts or cold hard cash but redress".
"The victims suffered some horrific abuse, often in silence," she said. "It is right and proper that their suffering is now recognised.
"I urge everyone involved in the process to make it as smooth and pain-free as possible in order to guard against any further suffering."