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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

F.2: “No one took it seriously or did anything about it”

4. Many victims and survivors described repeated attempts to tell someone that they were being sexually abused but no one seemed to take them seriously. Of those who disclosed sexual abuse at the time it was happening, 47 percent of Truth Project participants said that no action was taken. Many spoke of their desperation to be taken seriously:

Honestly, … the social worker … I did tell her, I did write her letters, I did communicate … but I was always told I was attention seeking or, ‘No, don’t be saying that’, ‘No, no, they wouldn’t do that, no’ that was the way it always was and I didn’t go there.”[1]

Truth Project participant

5. Some victims and survivors were mocked when they disclosed sexual abuse. One Truth Project participant disclosed to a healthcare professional within the same institution but no action was taken. He recalled: “When I reported the first incident I got laughed at. I just got laughed at … there was nowhere really for me to turn”.[2]

6. Other victims and survivors said that the person to whom they disclosed did not appear to take their allegation seriously enough to contact social care or the police. Hanaya was 18 when she took part in the Truth Project. A few years before, she had disclosed to her teacher that she had been sexually abused as a younger child.[3] He took no action, only telling her what would happen to the abuser according to their faith.

7. Some victims and survivors said that the person to whom they disclosed contacted their parents instead of social care or the police. On three occasions, Daran reported that he was being raped by his mother’s boyfriend.[4] He first spoke to his GP, then the police and finally a teacher at school. On each occasion, the professional phoned his mother and took no further action. His mother physically abused Daran for reporting the abuse. Sheryl was sexually abused by her father. She told a teacher at school that she was being abused but the only action they took was to contact her parents. Sheryl stressed the importance of not making assumptions based on appearances: “I came from a middle class respectable background, with professional and articulate parents. People often judge on appearances”.[5]

8. In a few cases, victims and survivors said that someone witnessed them being sexually abused but still failed to act. LA-A304 described a member of staff in her children’s home seeing her being sexually abused. The member of staff “walked straight back out again” and “didn’t do anything to stop what was going on or ask what was going on”.[6] When Laakia was around six years old, her father began touching her, kissing her and “doing things” to her while she was sitting on his lap.[7] She remembered her mother coming into the room when this was happening but she did nothing to stop the abuse.

9. Some victims and survivors said that their experiences of child sexual abuse were not taken seriously due to racism and sexism. One member of the Victims and Survivors Forum thought that being a “bi-racial black female” meant that care home staff saw her as a “consenting and willing participant” when she was raped.[8]

10. Other victims and survivors suggested that professionals feared allegations of racism and that this was prioritised over their safety. Prisha said that professionals were so afraid of being called racist that they dismissed her allegations of sexual abuse as “cultural differences” when she was a child.[9] One Forum member described how their race and religion affected their interaction with a doctor:

They didn’t want to help or intervene or protect me because I am a Sikh, they were more concerned about being racist than helping and rescuing a child who was being abused.[10]

Member of the Victims and Survivors Forum

11. Many victims and survivors described feeling trapped when sexual abuse was not taken seriously. Inaction often facilitated further sexual abuse. Cole reflected on how different things could have been “if just one person had listened to me”.[11]

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