You are here
While awareness of institutional child sexual abuse has grown in recent years, there remains limited understanding of its occurrence and outcomes as a distinct form of abuse. Drawing on research commissioned by the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, this article presents a rapid review of available evidence on the impacts of institutional abuse on victim/survivors. Literature searches identified 75 sources spanning international peer reviewed work and reports to Government that document or quantify the impacts of mostly historical child sexual abuse occurring in religious, educational, sporting and residential or out-of-home care settings. Consistent with child sexual abuse in other contexts, institutional child sexual abuse is found to be associated with numerous, pervasive and connected impacts upon the psychological, physical, social, educative and economic wellbeing of victims/survivors. Further, institutional child sexual abuse is associated with vicarious trauma at the individual, family and community level, and with impacts to the spiritual wellbeing of victims/survivors of abuse that occurs in religious settings. The identified literature suggests the trauma of institutional child sexual abuse may be exacerbated by the interplay of abuse dynamics in institutional settings, which may reduce or impede circumstances supporting disclosure, belief, support and protection from future harm. Acknowledging the limitations of the present study and the available evidence, this narrative synthesis provides insights into the complex impacts of institutional child sexual abuse.