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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

B.1: Introduction

1. Children are sexually abused every day in England and Wales.

1.1. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), an estimated 3.1 million adults in England and Wales have been sexually abused before the age of 16.[1]

1.2. One estimate suggests that the number of children abused in a single year is around 500,000.[2]

1.3. Other estimates suggest that around 1 in 6 girls and 1 in 20 boys are sexually abused before the age of 16.[3]

1.4. Over 7,000 children were referred to sexual assault referral centres (SARCs) in England during 2020/21, 20 percent more than in the previous year. This equates to nearly 20 referrals each day. Half of these referrals were for children aged 14 to 17, five out of six of whom were female.[4]

1.5. There has also been a significant rise in online-facilitated child sexual abuse in England and Wales, as well as globally, and in the estimated number of perpetrators who pose a sexual risk to children.

2. As the Inquiry has noted in its investigation reports, the true scale of offending and the number of children abused are likely to be greater than is presently known. Limitations with current methods of data collection have hampered the Inquiry’s ability to conduct a realistic assessment of how many of the 12.7 million children in England and Wales have been sexually abused, or are at risk of sexual abuse, by whom and in what settings.[5] The current data do not distinguish between familial abuse and abuse committed in an institutional context (the latter being the focus of this Inquiry). Little is known about the ethnicity of victims and survivors and perpetrators.

3. As set out in the UK government’s Tackling Child Sexual Abuse Strategy (2021):

Over 83,000 child sexual abuse offences (including obscene publications) were recorded by police in the year ending March 2020, an increase of approximately 267% since 2013. Of these, around 58,000 would be considered contact offences, which have increased by 202% in the same period.[6]

The Strategy recognised that these figures do not include certain sexual offences committed against 16 and 17-year-olds, such as rape, as well as sexual assault committed against children over the age of 13. As an indication, the Strategy noted that exploratory data published by the ONS in January 2020 suggested, where it was possible to identify that the victim or survivor was a child, that there were approximately 73,200 child sexual abuse offences for the year ending March 2019.[7]

4. This significant gap in understanding the scale of child sexual abuse impacts detrimentally on the ability of statutory agencies and other institutions to respond comprehensively to the level and nature of the threat to children. Different forms of child sexual abuse require different institutional responses. The Inquiry therefore recommends improved data collection by key statutory agencies.

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