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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.4: “Cultural change”

21. Victims and survivors repeatedly spoke about the importance of increasing knowledge and awareness of child sexual abuse to drive necessary cultural change in institutions and society:

Ignorance and silence enable abuse. Not talking about it doesn’t mean it won’t happen. Education and conversation about abuse can help change that.[1]

Keyleigh, Truth Project participant

22. In particular, many suggested that there should be greater awareness that child sexual abuse can have a severe and lifelong impact. One Truth Project participant said that “education for the general public is required about … how experiences of non-recent abuse can still affect people throughout their lives”.[2] Others said that they wanted the public and institutions to better understand that individuals can recover from child sexual abuse and childhood trauma.

23. Victims and survivors described their view that child sexual abuse must stop being a “taboo subject” that people are reluctant to discuss.[3] One Truth Project participant said that “as a society we need to be open and speak out about sexual abuse”.[4] It was suggested that informed and open conversations about child sexual abuse could dispel harmful myths:

There’s often also a belief that [child sexual abuse] happens to ‘others’, that ‘nobody I know’ will be affected by it – and this is so wrong. We need to be making sure people know that it can and does affect anybody.[5]

Member of the Victims and Survivors Forum

24. Victims and survivors also suggested that more open conversations would help to reduce the stigma associated with child sexual abuse. It was suggested that this was particularly necessary in some ethnic minority communities.[6] Many felt that changing how society talks about child sexual abuse could help victims and survivors to understand and disclose their experiences:

We need to have more publicity on what the symptoms are if you have been abused. Break it down into what boys may suffer and also what girls may suffer. That way the victim may feel more confident in coming forward.[7]

Member of the Victims and Survivors Forum

25. In order to encourage more open conversations about child sexual abuse, victims and survivors said that there should be “more information available”, increased “public conversation” and campaigning to raise awareness.[8] In addition, the media was seen as having an important role. Victims and survivors highlighted that the media should neither sensationalise nor downplay child sexual abuse. One young victim and survivor suggested that a sensitive but straightforward approach was needed: “If they want to make a change, they have to tell it like it is, that’s the only way people will start taking notice of it”.[9]

26. Some victims and survivors made suggestions for the cultural change needed in specific institutions. In particular, it was common to hear that victims and survivors felt cultural change was needed in residential institutions, such as residential schools and children’s homes, and also in custodial institutions. Arnold said that change was needed in boarding schools in particular so that the culture was “one in which people are not strong and silent, but strong and verbal”.[10]

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