More than half of child abuse victims experience domestic abuse in later life, new analysis shows, as reports of child abuse soar in the UK.
Thirty-four per cent of adults who witnessed domestic abuse in their home as a child have experienced abuse by a partner in later life, compared with 11 per cent of those who did not.
Data from the Crime Survey for England and Wales 2016 shows that around one in five adults aged 16 to 59 (an estimated 6.2 million people) experienced some form of abuse as a child.
Analysis of the data by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that roughly one in six adults who were abused as children reported abuse in the last year alone. Young adults aged 16 to 24 who were abused during childhood were most likely to be victims.
Those who survived more than one type of child abuse were more likely to experience domestic abuse as an adult, compared to those who survived fewer types of abuse, the analysis found.
Victims of all four types of child abuse – physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional or psychological abuse and neglect – were more likely to suffer domestic abuse, with 77 per cent experiencing domestic abuse after the age of 16, compared with 40 per cent who experienced one type of abuse as a child.
The findings showed that more than one in three (36 per cent) of those who experienced abuse by a family member as a child were abused by a partner as an adult.
Almost a third (31 per cent) of adults who were abused as children, reported being sexually assaulted as an adult, compared with 7 per cent of those who did not experience abuse as a child.
Women who were survivors of child abuse were four times more likely to experience sexual assault after the age of 16 than male survivors – at 43 per cent, compared with 11 per cent.
More than half (57 per cent) of female survivors of child abuse experienced domestic abuse as an adult, compared with 41 per cent of men.
Overall, women were five times more likely to suffer sexual assault as an adult than men – at 20 per cent, compared with 4 per cent – and twice as likely to experience domestic abuse, at 26 per cent compared with 14 per cent.
The analysis also shows that more than one in 10 (12 per cent) of adult survivors of child abuse were more likely to have taken illegal drugs in the last year, compared with 8 per cent of adults who had not been abused in their youth.
They were also almost twice as likely to report having a long-standing illness or disability – with illness or disabilities affecting more than a quarter (28 per cent) of child abuse victims, compared with 15 per cent of non-child abuse victims.
At the same time, 78 per cent of child abuse survivors said their health, in general, was “very good” or “good”, compared with 87 per cent of those who did not experience abuse as a child.
The findings are worrying, at a time when reports of children affected by domestic abuse have soared by 77 per cent in four years, according to figures released by child protection charity the NSPCC last week.
The charity received a record number of calls from adults concerned about violent and abusive behaviour around children last year, reaching 4,749 – up more than 75 per cent from 2012/13.
The Government has meanwhile been criticised by Ofsted for doing “far too little” to prevent domestic abuse and support child victims. Ofsted also accused ministers of failing to implement a long-term strategy to tackle the issue, which accounts for around one in 10 of all crimes committed in England and claims the lives of two people each week.
Responding to the latest findings, a spokesperson for the NSPCC said: “A child’s experience of abuse must never dictate their future, which is why we work directly with victims to help them recover and get their lives back on track.
“Although survivors may bear the scars of their experiences, this should not define who they are. Swift mental health support, resources for police to investigate child abusers, and a society that knows what abuse is and will step in if they suspect it, can all help survivors go on to lead happy, fulfilled, lives.”
Barnardo’s chief executive Javed Khan said: “The Crime Survey shows much more needs to be done to help victims of child abuse rebuild their lives, to prevent them being abused as an adult.
“Barnardo’s specialist services work to tackle the devastating impact domestic violence and sexual abuse has on vulnerable children. The earlier these children get the help they so desperately need, the better chance they have of transforming their lives so they can lead positive futures.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “No one should suffer abuse or neglect of any kind. We have improved the child protection system to identify children at risk as early as possible and to get them the support they need swiftly.
"The Children and Social Work Act, passed earlier this year, will also improve the way the police, NHS, social services and other agencies work together to protect children.
“We are transforming our approach to domestic abuse to ensure that victims have the confidence to come forward and report their experiences, safe in the knowledge that the state and the justice system will do everything it can to both support them and their children, and pursue their abuser.”
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