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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

J.2: “Better child protection”

2. The majority of victims and survivors who participated in the Inquiry’s work made suggestions for changes that they felt the government and institutions should introduce to better protect children from sexual abuse.

3. Victims and survivors often spoke about the necessity of widespread change to prevent child sexual abuse from happening. Todd suggested that “radical re-thinking, root and branch reform, is required across all sectors”.[1] Some reflected on the need for significant changes to the ‘system’ to protect children from experiencing child sexual abuse like they had:

Stop this from ever happening. Stop it somehow. It’s got to be stopped. The system is drastically wrong. These are life-changing injuries. Not a broken leg. They’re catastrophic injuries. Please help to do something.[2]

AR-A41, Accountability and reparations investigation

4. Victims and survivors also suggested reform was needed in specific institutions or sectors. In particular, victims and survivors who were sexually abused whilst in local authority care frequently said that the social care system needed to change. Nina described the social care system as “rotten from the top to the bottom” and said that it needed “systematic reform”.[3] Another Truth Project participant suggested that there needs to be “a general improvement in the treatment of and care for children” and that “children’s homes need to value and nurture children”.[4]

5. Some victims and survivors suggested that preventative actions should be focussed on perpetrators and those who are likely to sexually abuse children. Some victims and survivors thought that more should be done to identify this group and understand their motivations. Several victims and survivors suggested that perpetrators should receive more support, for example through prevention and treatment programmes. This could include safe spaces where perpetrators can seek help, as well as education on the impact of their behaviours:

I think we need to talk about the perpetrator as much as the victim, because my feeling is, if you don’t deal with the perpetrator, you’re always going to have that victim.[5]

Child sexual abuse in ethnic minority communities research participant

“Education and training about child sexual abuse”

6. Many victims and survivors suggested that people who work with children should be better trained and supported to identify signs of child sexual abuse, such as physical symptoms or changes in behaviour. Bernie suggested: “if sudden changes are seen in children, then just ask the question”.[6] Others noted the difficulties that children have in disclosing sexual abuse and suggested that “there needs to be training in place to support disclosure” so that children “might feel more confident about talking about their concerns and fears”.[7]

7. Victims and survivors made many suggestions for how specific professionals should be trained to respond to concerns and allegations about child sexual abuse. For example, Lexi felt that the police should be better trained in how to deal with reports of child sexual abuse, so that they are more understanding and supportive.[8] Kathleen felt that individuals working in schools in particular should be better trained in spotting signs of abuse.[9] Many victims and survivors suggested that religious leaders should receive training on child sexual abuse and safeguarding.[10] Adele felt strongly that social workers should be better trained in listening to children.[11]

8. Victims and survivors, including 28 percent of Truth Project participants, emphasised the importance of children receiving education on child sexual abuse. Kaz said: “it’s sad, but they need to be taught at an early age”.[12] Suranne suggested that education about sexual abuse would mean that children were “more likely to speak up”.[13] Habiba suggested that children should be taught about consent and personal space from when they start school. However, reflecting on her own experience, she stressed that professionals should recognise that some children may have already been sexually abused:

I was really triggered and understood for the first time what had happened to me was of a sexual nature. However, there was no understanding at the time that this video might be triggering for child abuse victims and sitting watching the movie, I felt unable to speak up.[14]

Habiba, Truth Project participant

9. Young victims and survivors made many suggestions for how relationships and sex education could be improved. In particular, grooming was frequently mentioned. One child said that they felt strongly that “at school you should be taught about inappropriate relationships and grooming”.[15] Children also stressed that better and more regular education on online-facilitated child sexual abuse was needed, and at an earlier age. One 16-year-old research participant suggested that such education “should actually start when young people start getting mobile phones”.[16]

10. A number of victims and survivors suggested that parents should be offered guidance and support on child sexual abuse. Some specifically mentioned information on signs of sexual abuse and how to communicate openly with children and respond to disclosures.

“Reporting child sexual abuse”

11. Victims and survivors frequently highlighted the importance of reporting allegations of child sexual abuse. In particular, 32 percent of Truth Project participants suggested that there should be a dedicated person to whom children can disclose child sexual abuse. Many also suggested changes were needed to ensure children disclosing sexual abuse are adequately supported:

You can’t always stop an incident happening but you can help people to feel safe reporting it.[17]

Loz, Truth Project participant

12. A large number of victims and survivors suggested that the government should introduce legislation making it a statutory requirement for individuals and institutions to report known or suspected child sexual abuse. Eighty-nine percent of members of the Victims and Survivors Forum who responded to the Inquiry’s survey on mandatory reporting said that they would like to see mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse introduced in England and in Wales.[18] Victims and survivors who spoke in favour of mandatory reporting described the potential benefits:

If there had been a mandatory law when I reported my child sexual abuse then perhaps my abuser would have been brought to justice. Possibly many other abusers would be prevented from continuing to harm children if their first incidence was reported under a mandatory law.[19]

Member of the Victims and Survivors Forum

13. Many victims and survivors felt that mandatory reporting would lead to a cultural change within institutions and across society. One Truth Project participant suggested that “reporting concerns should become a normal process in society”.[20]

14. While many adult victims and survivors were in favour of mandatory reporting, some young victims and survivors had different views.[21] In particular, young victims and survivors suggested that mandatory reporting requirements could discourage children from disclosing sexual abuse. One child said: “I wouldn’t tell if I knew that it would be reported to the police”.[22]

“Independent inspection and oversight”

15. Many victims and survivors felt that child protection inspections needed to be improved. While some were of the view that inspections should be carried out by an independent body, others advocated existing inspection regimes should become more rigorous.

16. Some victims and survivors suggested that all individuals working with children must be appropriately vetted and that current vetting processes should be more thorough. Cyrah said: “it’s not about nosing … if you choose to be involved with a child, you need to open up your life”.[23] Others specifically suggested improvements to the Disclosure and Barring Service.

17. Often victims and survivors suggested that institutions, services and agencies such as schools, police, healthcare services and social services should improve their ways of working together. This included better communication and information-sharing between professionals. In particular, victims and survivors stressed the importance of victims and survivors not “having to tell the same story again and again”:[24]

There should be more joined-up thinking. Police, social services and schools should be working together to share records.[25]

Member of the Victims and Survivors Forum
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