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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.4: “I was not taken seriously”

15. Many victims and survivors said that their experiences of child sexual abuse were not treated seriously when they sought acknowledgement or accountability. Some victims and survivors felt the severity and impact of child sexual abuse was minimised. One Forum member said that a police officer dismissed their experience of sexual abuse as “dormitory tomfoolery”.[1] Lexi told the police that she had been raped and sexually assaulted by a group of boys but was told that this was just young people “experimenting”.[2]

16. Victims and survivors stressed how invalidating it was when institutions refused to take their experiences of child sexual abuse seriously. Evin said that, even though the person who sexually abused him was convicted, the institution would only say that Evin “may” have been sexually abused. He found this response “incredible” and it made him very angry.[3] Some victims and survivors felt that not being taken seriously as an adult mirrored the response they received when they disclosed sexual abuse as a child. Silas said: “I was a kid then. Who would believe a kid … 53 years on, still trying to get someone to believe me”.[4]

17. When victims and survivors’ experiences were taken seriously, this was often a significant step in their journey to recovery. AR-A87 described being happy that he had been believed, even though his civil claim was ultimately denied:

I was happy because the judge himself turned around and said in court that he believed every word that I had said. To me … it was a small win on my behalf because the judge himself believed me.[5]

AR-A87, Accountability and reparations investigation

18. Victims and survivors also described how the responses they received from institutions downplayed their experiences of child sexual abuse. One Forum member recalled being told that the institution in which they were sexually abused as a child considered that they had “consented” to the sexual abuse.[6]

19. Some victims and survivors felt that perpetrators were given sentences that did not recognise the seriousness of child sexual abuse. Ben said that in the early 2000s a judge gave the man who sexually abused him a fine and not a custodial sentence. Ben remembered thinking “I’ve had bigger parking fines”.[7] The man who raped Isobel was given a one-year suspended sentence and 200 hours of community service. She said: “I could have screamed. There was no recognition from the court: ‘You did wrong. You’ve impacted on the rest of her life’”.[8] Fenella felt that such experiences were commonplace: “Even if there’s a successful conviction the penalty is minimal. And this affects the victim’s trust in the … justice system”.[9]

20. Other victims and survivors felt that the financial compensation they received did not reflect the seriousness of their experiences. Forty-one percent of Truth Project participants who had sought and received compensation said that they were satisfied with it. One Forum member said that the amount of financial compensation they received was calculated on the basis that the damage was “non permanent”:

I was so angry … how could they say it wasn’t permanent? I was 45 years old. I had been suffering with depression all my life. How could they possibly know it wasn’t permanent? I was furious. Not only did he steal my childhood but he stole my future”.[10]

Member of the Victims and Survivors Forum
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