Content warning - Please note this article includes a link to a report which contains accounts of child sexual abuse. If you are affected by anything you read here, you can talk to us. We will listen to you and believe you. And we never judge.
Today, 20 October 2022, The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) published its concluding report, following 7 years of investigations from the Inquiry. Rape Crisis England & Wales honours the immense bravery of the survivors who participated in the inquiry. We acknowledge their courage in sharing their devastating experiences, and the huge emotional toll it will have taken to do so. Without their voices, this Inquiry would not have happened. This is a moment of national importance, but also one of reckoning and deep shame when recognising how the most vulnerable in our communities were ignored, silenced, and blamed.
Child sexual abuse is one of the largest aspects of Rape Crisis’ work. National data tells us that approximately 40% of all survivors accessing our 39 Centres are adult survivors of child sexual abuse, 80% of Rape Crisis Centres work with children and young people 13-17 years old, and over a third work with children aged 0-12.
The report sets out the main findings about the extent to which state and non-state institutions failed in their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation.
The Report comprises two parts:
- Victims and Survivors' Voices - reflecting the accounts of over 7,000 victims and survivors who participated in the Inquiry’s work
- The Inquiry’s Conclusions and Recommendations for Change
It contains 20 recommendations to the government and other institutions, and it recommends urgent action to ensure children are better protected from sexual abuse.
Some of the key findings from the report include:
- Historically, inadequate measures were in place to protect children from the risk of being sexually abused – sometimes there were none at all;
- Individuals and institutions often thought children were lying when they tried to disclose what was being done to them;
- Victims were frequently blamed as being responsible for their own sexual abuse;
- There is still not enough support available to both child and adult victims and survivors;
- The devastation and harm caused by sexual abuse cannot be overstated – the impact of child sexual abuse, often lifelong, is such that everyone should do all they can to protect children.
The Inquiry has set out a number of recommendations, including:
- That the UK government and the Welsh Government introduce a national guarantee that child victims of sexual abuse will be offered specialist and accredited therapeutic support;
- The introduction of laws requiring certain people (mandatory reporters) to report child sexual abuse, including that it should be a crime to fail to make a mandatory report in certain circumstances;
- A recommendation that the UK and Welsh government creates a cabinet-level ministerial position for children;
- That the UK government and the Welsh Government create campaigns to build public awareness about child sexual abuse and the action to take if child sexual abuse is happening or suspected in England and in Wales;
- The removal of the three-year limitation period for personal injury claims brought by victims and survivors of child sexual abuse in respect of their abuse.
Jayne Butler, CEO of Rape Crisis England & Wales states:
The publication of the IICSA report is a significant moment for survivors of child sexual abuse, who for years have been ignored, let down and betrayed by the authorities in a monumental way. The failings detailed by the Inquiry are hard to read but immensely important. Child sexual abuse is endemic in our society, and millions of children and adults are living with the impact of it. We are grateful to the Inquiry for their comprehensive approach to this report, and for centring survivor voice throughout. But mostly we are grateful to the thousands of survivors who recounted their traumatic experiences to help improve systems and processes for children in the future. The recommendations set out by IICSA are wide-ranging, and comprehensive, with the potential to be transformative if properly resourced, posing serious challenge to the current inadequate responses to child sexual abuse survivors and their perpetrators. Some major changes will be needed to realise the ambitions set out IICSA, particularly around the appropriate resourcing of specialist sexual violence and abuse services. Many of IICSA’s recommendations are contingent on the adequate resourcing of specialist, long-term, sexual violence and abuse services that understand trauma and trauma responses. We now need to see urgent and immediate action from the relevant authorities to implement these recommendations. The damage caused to the children failed by institutions cannot be undone, but there is a clear opportunity to protect children in the future: this cannot be ignored.