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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.6: “I was treated with such disdain”

25. Victims and survivors often described experiencing a lack of care, sensitivity or empathy. Eliza was sexually abused as a child in the 1990s and reported the abuse shortly after it ended. She said that the police responded by saying that she could destroy someone’s reputation by making such allegations.[1] Meghan was sexually abused as a child in the 2010s. She said that when she reported the abuse to the police, they began the interview by telling her that she could ruin the perpetrator’s life.[2] P4 described her interactions with the police after she reported child sexual abuse in 2017:

I believe that the police treated me appallingly when I reported the abuse. … When I was interviewed, I felt like they didn’t believe me and then they just texted me to say they were closing the investigation. They offered me no compassion or sensitivity.[3]

P4, Children in the care of the Nottinghamshire Councils investigation

26. Some victims and survivors said that they were insulted by institutions when they sought acknowledgement and accountability. One child victim and survivor said that a police officer referred to her as a “little bitch”.[4]

27. Victims and survivors also described the process of seeking acknowledgement and accountability as intrusive. Many felt that they were the subject of investigation rather than the perpetrator. RO-A117 said that her life was “ripped open” as the police investigated “everything” about her: “there was no part of my life that wasn’t investigated, which was devastating”.[5] A number of Forum members felt that they were still recovering from the invasive nature of the investigation years after it had concluded.[6]

28. Giving evidence about child sexual abuse was often described as very challenging. Some victims and survivors said that police officers did not appear to understand the impact of reliving traumatic events, and how this might affect their participation in the investigation process.[7] Others highlighted the impact of repeatedly recounting their experience of child sexual abuse. LA-A7 recalled feeling forced to “relive events that I had tried to forget”.[8] AR-A87 described how going through multiple civil trials was “very, very difficult it nearly split me and my wife up”.[9]

29. Many victims and survivors spoke about how emotionally difficult it was to be cross-examined about their allegations in court. In 2019, CS-A12 gave evidence in a criminal trial. She described the defence barrister referring to sexist stereotypes during cross-examination: “I was accused of being a slag … I was told, like, it was all my fault … I was literally torn apart on that stand”.[10] Some victims and survivors said that they were re-traumatised by the court process. Daisy said she now has “nightmares about that day in the court. Rather than putting it right it was just another time I was traumatised”.[11]

30. Victims and survivors who gave evidence in court as children described similar experiences. Numerous child victims and survivors said being cross-examined was very difficult. One Truth Project participant who was under the age of 13 when he gave evidence in court described his experience as “traumatic”.[12] The defence persistently tried to discredit him:

the line of questioning that the defence took was that [the perpetrator] was just somebody who … actually cared for me and was trying to do a good thing”.[13]

Truth Project participant

31. Victims and survivors often felt that the processes involved in seeking acknowledgement and accountability meant that they needed therapeutic support. However, many said that they were not offered or referred to formal support services. Roberta said that as a child she was not offered any support during or after the criminal trial at which she gave evidence: “when you don’t have the support at 12 years old it has knock-on effects”.[14] Annalise described a similar absence of support when she gave evidence as an adult. As a result, she wished she had been murdered instead of sexually abused, “it would have been a lot easier and less painful”.[15]

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