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Childhood sexual abuse: At the heart of problems with ACES policy

Dr Sarah Nelson is a Research Associate at the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships (CRFR) and a research specialist on childhood sexual abuse and its effects across the lifecourse. Sarah’s book, ‘Tackling Child Sexual Abuse: Radical Approaches’, offers hope of more effective, imaginative means of protecting children and young people from sexual abuse.

This is the second of a two part blog in which she discusses childhood sexual abuse in the context of ACE policy.

In part 1 of this blog (5/7/19) I outlined reasons why reducing childhood sexual abuse (CSA) in society, and addressing its damaging effects in adulthood, need to form and remain a key component of ACES policy. The considerable risks to mental health, and now increasingly to physical health also, have been widely researched and evidenced for decades: more so than any other of the original ten Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) compiled by Prof Vincent Felitti and his team, which have been widely adopted in studies and in policy ever since.

The relevance of a CSA history to persisting substance misuse, to blot out distressing effects of the trauma; to cognitive problems damaging education and career prospects, due to neurobiological effects of chronic early stress; and to higher rates of offending, due mainly to anger, alienation and involvement in drug and exploitative commercial sex cultures, are also well researched, and connect with findings of later ACE studies (Nelson 2016).

Yet although the recent, belated emphasis on understanding the role of traumas in general in the lives of children and adults which ACES have helped to promote is valuable and very welcome, attention within that to sexual abuse issues remains marginal…

Continue at the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships


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