Child sex abuse UK’s national health epidemic, government adviser warns
LONDON: There could be as many as 11 million victims
of sexual abuse in the UK – constituting a “national health epidemic” – an
expert appointed to a government inquiry has said.
Graham Wilmer, founder of the Lantern Project, said
his estimation was based on “prevalence rates published by the government”, and
he called for better support for victims.
He was appointed by the home secretary, Theresa May,
as an independent panel member on the historical sex abuse inquiry, which has
seen the resignation of two chairs and anger from some victims.
Wilmer, an abuse victim himself, told Sky News: “There
are potentially about 11.7 million victims out there at the moment who have not
disclosed and many of those people will start to come forward in very
“You are dealing with a massive, massive problem. From
what we have seen, if you don’t provide the right level of support and
intervention to support people when they come forward you see very significant
health problems – mental health and physical health – which have a direct cost
to us as a society.
“We look upon child abuse and its impact now as a
national health epidemic.”
According to Sky News, statistics show one in six boys
under 16 have been sexually abused, while for girls the figure is one in four.
The children’s charity NSPCC estimates that one in 20 children in the UK have
been sexually abused.
The government’s inquiry has been dogged with
problems, mainly around finding a chair, since it was announced in July. May
has apologised to victims for failing to find a suitable person to fill the
Lady Butler-Sloss stood down as chair in July amid questions
over the role played by her late brother, Lord Havers, who was attorney general
in the 1980s.
Her replacement, Fiona Woolf, the then lord mayor of
London, resigned in October following criticism over her “establishment links”,
most notably in relation to the former home secretary Lord Brittan.
Last week a number of alleged victims of child sexual
abuse said they would withdraw from the inquiry unless the government made
changes, including extending the period of time it will cover to further back