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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

I.3: “I have been let down by everyone and everything”

8. Victims and survivors who tried to seek acknowledgement and accountability often felt let down by institutions. Hussain said that he was told he was “tarnishing the reputation of the Muslim religion” and described feeling “let down” by Muslim authority figures “who have authority to deal with this” but prevented him from speaking out about being sexually abused as a child.[1] Many described such experiences as mirroring what happened to them as children:

I have completely lost faith in the police and I regret trying to do things the right way. I have been completely let down. I feel badly let down by the social care system. I was sexually abused by those who were supposed to be caring for me.”[2]

P13, Children in the care of the Nottinghamshire Councils investigation

9. Victims and survivors who felt let down commonly described institutions failing to take action when they sought acknowledgement or accountability. It seemed to some that institutions were not interested in understanding or acknowledging their experiences. Alice felt let down by both the police and the institution in which she was sexually abused: “we’ve not had justice and we’ve been treated with such disdain … there is no recognition that we’ve been failed”.[3] Even though the children’s home manager who sexually abused Bryce was convicted, the responsible local authority never apologised:

I never got an apology from social services for everything they put me through … for placing me into a community where people are meant to look after you, not harm you but look after you, and that is a failure on both counts.”[4]

Bryce, Truth Project participant

10. A number of victims and survivors talked about the police not taking formal action after they reported child sexual abuse. For some, this was because the perpetrator had died before the report was made. For other victims and survivors, the perpetrator died while the case was progressing through the criminal justice system. Donovan said it was a “punch in the gut” when the man who sexually abused him died before the case reached court.[5]

11. Some victims and survivors said that the police did not take action because they thought there was not enough evidence to support the allegation. RO-A9 was told by a police officer that there was “no evidence, … nothing they could do” when he reported that he had been sexually abused.[6] Bernard recently reported to the police that he was sexually abused in the 1960s. He described the first police officer he saw as “completely uninterested … saying it was all too long ago” for action to be taken.[7]

12. A number of victims and survivors said that no explanation was provided about why the police did not take action. This often left them feeling confused and frustrated. Estelle said that she reported her experiences of sexual abuse to the police twice but, on both occasions, no action was taken. She told the police that she was concerned the perpetrator could be abusing other children. The officer replied: “oh well they all say that”.[8] Ada was sexually abused by a police officer in the 2010s. The police carried out an internal investigation but warned Ada not to take the case to court because her name would probably be made public.[9]

13. Other victims and survivors described initial positive interactions with the police but found that progress towards accountability through the criminal justice system stalled later on. Monique said that on two separate occasions, first as a child and later as an adult, the police officers to whom she reported made it clear that they believed she was sexually abused. However, on both occasions, the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to proceed with the case. Monique found this very upsetting and difficult to understand.[10] Beverley said that she was devastated by the Crown Prosecution Service’s decision not to proceed with the case. She felt the perpetrator “had got away with it … he had won”.[11]

14. Some victims and survivors lost faith in those in positions of authority as a result of being let down when they sought acknowledgement and accountability. One Forum member described that being refused access to their childhood medical records “has led to mistrust in health professionals and … [an] inability to access healthcare services when needed”.[12] Feelings of regret were common amongst victims and survivors who felt that they had been let down. One child victim and survivor said:

Now I regret having gone to the police. If I had to give advice to someone, I would say, ‘get help but don’t report’.[13]

Engagement with children and young people participant
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