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IICSA published its final Report in October 2022. This website was last updated in January 2023.

IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

The Report of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Final report

C.4: “I was neglected and surrounded by chaos”

13. Victims and survivors frequently described the environments in which they grew up as extremely chaotic. NO-A49 grew up in the late 1990s and 2000s. He described his cramped and “chaotic” upbringing: “there were on occasion up to 23 people living in a three-bedroomed house”.[1] Victims and survivors who grew up in tumultuous environments often said they were failed first by their family and then by professionals who did not take sufficient action to ensure their safety. Dillan said: “All I wanted was some help … maybe people didn’t know how to help then … but these were professional people”.[2]

14. Some victims and survivors were raised by parents or carers who were not able to meet their basic needs or provide a supportive home. One Truth Project participant recalled not being fed properly and never being shown any affection: “my parents never gave me cuddles, never said I love you, never tucked me in at night”.[3] Some also spoke of poor physical conditions at home:

My father lived in one room with no windows, no heating, no hot water and no working toilet. I lived there for many months and slept in his bed”.[4]

Truth Project participant

15. Victims and survivors who described chaotic upbringings often said that their parents left them in the care of unsuitable adults. Mairi described being regularly left alone with “whoever was willing to look after me”.[5] In some cases, victims and survivors were placed at direct risk of sexual abuse. Jasmin was sometimes cared for by her mother’s ‘pimp’. He sexually abused Jasmin. She said: “at first he was really nice. He put his arms around me, kissed my head and made me feel safe”.[6]

16. Neglect at home led to some victims and survivors being placed into local authority care. Some described initial feelings of relief and optimism at escaping their home environment. Leon’s mother struggled with mental health issues; he felt relief when he was first placed into care because he was able to get away from her unpredictable behaviour.[7] Another Truth Project participant described relief at escaping an unsafe home environment:

[The children’s home] was the most amazing place for me, initially; I was safe … I felt, ‘I’ve got a safe place, I’m okay. I don’t have to watch my mum being beaten to a pulp; I don’t have to see all of that.’[8]

Truth Project participant

17. Some children who were placed into care were neglected by the institutions responsible for their care. Many victims and survivors who were sexually abused in children’s homes between the 1960s and 1990s described their placements as “cold”,[9]frightening[10] and “uncaring”.[11] LA-A351 described how it was “normal” for her daily routine to involve stealing food.[12] Without this she would have had “nothing to eat”.[13] Foster care placements were described similarly. L46 was placed in foster care in the 1970s; she was physically and emotionally abused, including not being fed properly and “being treated like a slave”.[14]

18. Such care placements were sometimes described as worse than the homes from which children were removed. This cycle of harm was extremely difficult for victims and survivors:

You go into a children’s home already damaged, we’re already damaged before we get to that point; we’re not going there for a holiday … it should’ve been a place of safety.[15]

Truth Project participant

19. Neglect left victims and survivors feeling as though no one cared what happened to them. Adrienne said: “In a life of chaos it’s like being a ghost – you are the last thing anyone thinks of”.[16] Many felt that perpetrators exploited their vulnerability in the knowledge that no one was looking out for them.

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