The prevalence of child sexual abuse in England has been vastly underestimated according to a new report by the Children's Commissioner.
The study of police records & victims' testimonies is the largest of its kind & suggests only one-in-eight victims come to the attention of authorities due to lack of reporting.
The report authors estimate this "hidden crime" costs society Â£3bn a year – mostly due to mental illness & other health problems that abuse victims suffer in after life.
Around 50,000 cases of sexual abuse were recorded by police & local authorities in the two years to March 2014, yet it is thought as many as 450,000 were actually abused in that time.
Despite the attention given to institutional abuse the inquiry moreover reveals that two-thirds of child sexual abuse takes place within the family environment.
Anne Longfield, the Children's Commissioner for England, said: "In recent years the terrible experiences of sexual abuse that some children have suffered in institutions or at the hands of groups of perpetrators have come to light, & preventing & tackling these has been made a priority.
"We must now wake-up to & urgently address the most usual form of child sexual abuse – that which takes place behind the front door within families or their trusted circles."
The study found abuse is most likely to occur around the age of nine, yet victims often do not speak out approximately it for years.
A separate report by the charity One in Four found that health professionals needed to have a greater awareness of child abuse as a potential cause of illness.
The charity is urging professionals working in areas such as drug & alcohol dependency, mental health, & eating disorders to ask their clients if they have a history of trauma such as child sexual abuse (CSA).
Charity trustee & CSA expert Christiane Sanderson, said: "Sexual abuse is not just something that happened in a person's childhood. It can remain alive inside them & their families, sustained by secrecy & silence to protect the abuser & other relatives.
"Trust is often distorted & ultimately destroyed, & it is vital that health professionals understand this process so they can treat survivors & assist them to ultimately escape from their past."
Sky News spoke to Rachel Isaac who provided a testimony for the study. The Broadway actress & star of TV show The Office was abused by a friend of her parents from the age of 9 to 11.
She said: "I started to just deny it. I didn't want it to be real & pretend it never happened. I thought I was the only person that this had ever happened to.
"So even when I realised when I was eighteen that he might have broken the law, I thought – well he broke it with me, it must have been something approximately me that caused that."
Like many victims, Ms Isaac boxed up her abuse & mostly kept it secret from friends & family, yet eventually when she was diagnosed with ME, health professionals linked it to the trauma of her early years.
"You can't suppress that for ever & try to be invincible your whole life. Suddenly, I just crashed." says Rachel
She was able to commence to recover from her illness after the conviction of her abuser Michael Batten in 2013. He was jailed for 30 months & after several years of illness Rachel has returned to work.
Source: “Sky News”