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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

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

Institutional context and knowledge of the sexual abuse

Participants painted a picture of residential care contexts having a general culture of aggression and violence, and where physical and emotional abuse was pervasive. They reported being treated as children generally unworthy of love and care, and finding it difficult to make friends with other children in the same place. They also commonly described feeling isolated.

That was a very cruel place ... if you did something wrong, they would get you out of bed and make you stand on the stairs and if you moved you would be slapped.

- Truth Project participant sexually abused in a residential care context

Six key factors were identified as facilitating the perpetration of sexual abuse in this context:

  • an embedded culture of abusive behaviour;
  • staff being given care responsibilities and trust without sufficient training, qualifications or support;
  • lack of supervision and professional boundaries;
  • being able to exploit the physical space;
  • deflection of concerns or allegations;
  • children having no trusted person they could talk to.

Half of participants (50 per cent) who were sexually abused in a residential care context reported that they knew of someone else in the same establishment also being abused. This was a higher proportion compared to those abused in other contexts (30 per cent).

When I look back now it makes me feel physically sick that everyone knew this was going on including the workers and did nothing.

- Truth Project participant sexually abused in a residential care context


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