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Ethnic minority survivors of child sexual abuse don’t trust police says report

29 April 2021

Victims and survivors of child sexual abuse from ethnic minority communities do not trust the police or social care, according to a new report, Engagement with support services from ethnic minority communities, published today (29 April) by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse. 

The Inquiry spoke to 107 organisations over 18 months, with the majority saying that lack of trust in institutions and professionals prevented victims and survivors from disclosing or reporting child sexual abuse. The organisations the Inquiry spoke to included domestic and sexual violence support services, women’s groups, religious charities, mental health agencies and specific ethnic minority organisations. All work closely with victims and survivors of child sexual abuse from ethnic minority communities.

The report detailed other key barriers to reporting child sexual abuse among these communities including language, closed communities, culture, shame and honour and education.

The Inquiry’s engagement team, who authored the report, heard that some police, social workers, counsellors, psychotherapists and professionals lack cultural competency or rely on harmful stereotypes when working with individuals from ethnic minority communities. They also heard that victims and survivors could be English speakers but still lack the language necessary to talk about child sexual abuse.

“How do you say what you don’t know? Words around sex and child sexual abuse are literally barriers to disclosure in that children do not have the words.” - Mental health organisation

Counselling sessions were also heard to be less effective when conducted through an interpreter, with victims and survivors let down by the lack of cultural diversity in counselling services.

Feelings of shame, which are a common response for all victims and survivors of child sexual abuse, were also reportedly compounded by particular cultural values. For example, in honour-based cultures, breaches of the community’s code of behaviour may damage the reputation of the entire family. 

Women and girls were also said to commonly be expected to maintain their family’s honour by ensuring that they are sexually ‘pure’, particularly in communities where girls are expected to be ‘marriageable’.

“Female victims of child sexual abuse are considered damaged goods if the abuse becomes known. The consequence is that future suitors may consider women as second hand.” - Community support group

The Inquiry also heard some organisations do not recognise or support the cultural and religious needs of victims and survivors from ethnic minority backgrounds. The report says ‘cultural sensitivity’ can be used as an excuse for treating ethnic minority victims and survivors differently, and that this can prevent reporting or disclosure.

The 55 page report is part of the Inquiry’s ongoing work examining how organisations are failing to protect children from sexual abuse.


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