In the past 4 years, prosecutions for child sexual abuse have more than halved. Convictions have also dropped by 41%.
Last week (19th January) NSPCC reported on the significant drop in child sex abuse (CSA) prosecutions and convictions following a Freedom of Information request. The stats show that over the past 4 years prosecutions for CSA have more than halved, going from 6494 in 2016/17 to just 3025 in 2020/21. Similarly, convictions over the same period dropped by 45%, going from 4,751 to 2,595. The length of time it is taking for CSA cases to be completed has also increased, with children now waiting on average 1 year and 10 months for their case to reach court. These figures, although alarming, are sadly not surprising. There has been much discourse about the problems within the criminal justice system when it comes to prosecuting adult rape and other sexual offences, and the Crown Prosecution Service’s failure to adequately address these has meant that thousands of children trying to seek justice are paying the price for a broken system.
Child sexual abuse is a traumatic experience that can have a wide range of severe, long-term, even lifelong, impacts on survivors and victims. Across Rape Crisis Centres, adult survivors of child sexual abuse account for around 40% of our service users and over a third of our Rape Crisis Centres now deliver services for primary aged children, demonstrating the huge impact CSA has on survivors and how essential support is for those that have experienced it.
It is incredibly difficult for any survivor of sexual violence and abuse to come forwards, especially so for children who have often been groomed to stay silent. It is unacceptable that those who have been brave enough to do so are being let down so monumentally. We now need to see a concerted effort to address these issues so that children seeking justice are not put through further trauma.
We call for more support and services for children who have experienced sexual violence.
We echo the calls made by the NPSCC to increase the number of Independent Sexual Violence Advisors that are trained to work with children (CHISVAs). Across our Rape Crisis Network, CHISVAS play a hugely important role in helping children to navigate the criminal justice system and beyond, ensuring they feel informed and supported through something that can feel very overwhelming. It’s important to recognise that support should not just be limited to those seeking criminal justice: children also require access to sexual violence and abuse counselling and therapy services, such as those provided by Rape Crisis Centres. We call for these services to be commissioned appropriately so children can access the wraparound holistic support they deserve. No child should have to wait to for a service.
Finally, we call on the Department of Education to fund specialist Rape Crisis workers to deliver regular high-quality prevention and consent workshops and lessons to children and young people. We cannot effectively address the impacts of CSA without working towards its elimination.