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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.2: Acknowledgement

5. For some victims and survivors, acknowledgement that sexual abuse occurred is often an important form of reparation. Recognition may be provided by individuals, institutions and wider society. For this to happen, victims and survivors must be listened to and taken seriously.

6. Participants in the Inquiry’s Truth Project were motivated to participate for a variety of reasons. They stated that being able to disclose their experiences was important in helping them feel listened to.[1] For example, the “most discussed support need” for victims and survivors of child sexual abuse in ethnic minority communities was being able to share their experiences, having felt unable to talk about them for years.[2] A participant in the research report on ethnic minority communities described the importance of being listened to:

I’m 65, and the Truth Project is the first support I’ve felt I’ve had in my whole life where I can actually tell a story. So I’ve waited a very long time. I’m so grateful that this has happened.[3]

7. For some victims and survivors, acknowledgement of the abuse and acceptance that it should not have happened is particularly important.[4] This can provide them with a sense of vindication and relief, often after years of feeling ignored. It may also help to lessen feelings of shame and guilt that can result from being abused as a child. As one member of the Victims and Survivors Forum explained, “some acceptance by the organisations involved would be a start for me to feel less [like] a ‘dirty secret’”.[5]

8. Institutions often dismissed or did not sufficiently act on disclosures or reports of abuse, from both children and adults, and refused to meet with victims and survivors.[6] Baroness Sheila Hollins said that, during the course of her role as a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors in the Roman Catholic Church, she heard about “many situations from different countries where there had been delays or refusals to meet people making complaints” and that this was “devastating” for them. She added that the value and impact of meeting with a victim or complainant was:

Because if you are able to sit and to hear something which is extraordinarily painful and which a person has not been able to tell before, and you are able to hear it, then that goes a huge way to feeling believed … I mean, it just changes everything.[7]

9. Some institutions also responded without compassion, empathy or respect and used defensive language driven by concerns about legal liability and associated financial consequences, rather than concerns for those who had been abused.[8] Denial of child sexual abuse or failure of the institution to acknowledge child sexual abuse was also a recurring theme in the Truth Project.[9]

10. In recent years, some institutions have begun to acknowledge the abuse experienced by so many in their care, as indicated by the apologies made. However, in many instances this came after decades of poor responses towards victims and survivors and refusals to acknowledge that the sexual abuse had occurred.


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