CSO Childhood experiences of Sexual Violence Survey:

Protecting children – Today’s young adults’ experiences of childhood sexual violence puts us on notice. 


The Central Statistics Office (CSO) has today released the third of six reports from its Sexual Violence Survey measuring the prevalence of sexual violence in Ireland. This latest report from the Sexual Violence Survey looks at child sexual violence experienced in the past by adults currently in Ireland. It is not a survey of children today. 


Key findings 

  • Almost three in ten adults (29%) experienced sexual violence as a child and there is a clear difference between the sexes. Women reported experiencing it (36%) at a higher level than men (22%)  
  • 73% of those aged 18-24 who experienced contact sexual violence as a child reported that a child (person under 18) was the perpetrator 

  • 25% of women experienced non-contact sexual violence as a child 
  • 10% of men reported that they were made to look at unwanted pornographic material when they were a child 
  • 32% of adults who experienced contact sexual violence as a child experienced it in a public place/outdoors 
  • Bisexual people reported over double the level (58%) of sexual violence as a child compared with heterosexual/straight people (28%). The equivalent rate for gay/lesbian people was 39%. . 
  • People with a third level education reported experiencing sexual violence as a child at over twice the rate (33%) than those with a primary level of education only or below (14%).  
  • Half of women (50%) and 37% of men who experienced contact sexual violence as a child reported that it happened more than once in childhood. 


Earlier reports told us that the level of sexual violence experienced by young people was particularly shocking, with 65% of those reaching 25 years old already having experienced contact sexual violence. We can now see from the figures today that for this cohort, 41% experienced violence while they were children and that 73% of the perpetrators were also children. (The equivalent figure for the over 65 year olds is 17%). The vast majority of perpetrators were male.  


Dr Clíona Saidléar, Executive Director, Rape Crisis Network Ireland:  

 ‘The urgency of addressing cultural, educational and institutional responses to supporting a safe childhood is beyond overstating. 


‘This response to sexual violence against children must see our children’s lives as a whole and in the context of the world they inherit. All too often our response has been piecemeal leaving our children dealing with mixed messages and predators with a ‘get out clause’. Sex education alone will not protect unless we also understand the different impacts of our sex differences; Consent education alone will not work unless we understand how power works and the realities of misogyny; teaching them to know their boundaries and to reach out to a safe adult alongside smartphone access and unfettered online spaces; Promoting respect and dignity do not work unless our children also understand that we are all starting from a place of inequality, privilege and discrimination.’ 


The task of responding purposefully, holistically and across the whole of government and society in preventing childhood sexual violence has, for the first time, been taken on within a national sexual violence strategy in the 2022 Zero Tolerance strategy. This task will be taken up by the new DSGBV agency in 2024.  


As with each of these CSO reports, the statistics reflect a sample from the full data set – our fuller analysis, reflection and response will only emerge over time.  


The SVS report is available on the CSO website 




Executive Director Clíona Saidléar is available for interview  

For further information contact  

Cliona on 087 2196447  




  1. RCNI builds and sustains considerable expertise to identify, make the case for, and implement priorities for a whole-of society and Government response to sexual violence.  
  2. Subsequent CSO publications generated from this data will cover: Disclosure, Harassment and Attitudes. Previous releases covered overall prevalence and adult experiences.