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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Child sexual abuse in the context of children’s homes and residential care

Key findings from the research

This thematic report examines what victims and survivors have shared with the Truth Project about their experiences of child sexual abuse in residential care contexts. While analysis of Truth Project data is ongoing, this report highlights some specific features and characteristics about non-recent child sexual abuse in residential care contexts that were notable from this research.

  • This group of victims and survivors typically described disrupted, chaotic and, in some cases, neglectful childhoods. The circumstances preceding their placement into residential care were characterised by fractured relationships with parents who were often struggling with alcohol misuse, mental health issues, or domestic violence and abuse.
  • Within the group of victims and survivors abused in residential care, more reported a disability or long-term illness than those sexually abused in other contexts[1]. Some reported that the disability or long-term illness affected them at the time of the sexual abuse, however the majority who reported a disability or long-term illness did not experience it until after the sexual abuse.
  • There were more men than women in this group of participants. This is different to the overall gender-split of Truth Project participants, where more women have come forward in total.
  • Participants painted a picture of the residential care they had experienced as having a general culture of aggression and violence, and where physical and emotional abuse were pervasive. Participants described how sexual abuse was often accompanied by physical or emotional abuse. Those abused in the context of residential care described repeated sexual abuse, including rape, over a prolonged period of time, with some experiencing sexual abuse in multiple residential care contexts.
  • While the majority of perpetrators were male, there was a higher proportion of sexual abuse involving female perpetrators in the context of residential care compared to other contexts. Perpetrators of sexual abuse in a residential care context were most frequently reported to be residential care workers or a peer or older child who, in some cases, resided in the same residential care home.
  • The general lack of oversight in residential care contexts was consistently spoken about in participants’ accounts. They described the ease with which perpetrators were able to take children off-site, have unquestioned physical contact with children on-site, and easy access to certain locations where they could perpetrate sexual abuse.
  • Many participants perceived that residential care staff or those working in the social services knew of or suspected instances of sexual abuse had occurred. Half of the victims and survivors who experienced abuse in a residential care context reported knowing of someone else being sexually abused in the same institution. Just under half of participants told someone about the sexual abuse at the time it was happening. Those who did disclose the abuse whilst it was ongoing frequently told someone in authority inside the institution.
  • Victims and survivors described a range of negative impacts of the sexual abuse they experienced, both at the time of the abuse and at other stages of their lives. This included personally engaging in or being surrounded by criminal behaviour and various mental health impacts, notably suicidal thoughts and attempts. Many also spoke of difficulties with sleep and nightmares.
  • Participants found the transition from living in residential care to independent living in the community difficult. They described being offered little or no support at this time and talked about a lack of support services and offers of counselling more generally, which they felt hindered their recovery.

References

Footnotes

  1. For purposes of comparison, quantitative data from participants who were sexually abused in a residential care context are compared with quantitative data from participants whose descriptions of abuse did not involve residential care contexts.
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