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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

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

Context and nature of the sexual abuse

Sexual abuse in this context was perpetrated by a range of individuals either inside or outside the establishments, sometimes by multiple perpetrators described as operating in collusion. Many participants reported that they were abused by residential care workers (47 per cent). Residential care workers refers to anyone responsible for providing care to children in residential care (rather than ancillary staff such as caretakers or gardeners). A quarter of participants (25 per cent) reported being abused by a peer or older child, who may or may not have resided in the same place of residential care. There were also some examples of abuse that involved female perpetrators (16 per cent).

Of the participants who were sexually abused in the context of residential care, a higher proportion reported experiencing multiple, unrelated episodes of sexual abuse (58 per cent) compared to those abused in other contexts (27 per cent). In our analysis we define an ‘episode’ as one or more instances of sexual abuse involving a particular perpetrator(s) or institution(s). Where a participant reports multiple episodes of abuse, this means they have experienced more than one distinct episode of sexual abuse, involving different, unconnected perpetrators and institutions. For example, an individual may have been sexually abused by a family member in a domestic setting, and then experienced sexual abuse perpetrated by a residential care worker in a children’s home; this would be classified as two episodes of abuse.

Penetrative and non-penetrative abuse was reported and participants sexually abused in this context often talked about experiencing other forms of abuse alongside the sexual abuse (55 per cent). Experiences of physical abuse were particularly frequent within this group (39 per cent). Participants described how the sexual abuse escalated over time. Grooming often formed part of the sexual abuse perpetrated by ‘outside adults’, although many participants did not recognise it as such at the time. Many participants experienced repeated sexual abuse over a prolonged period of time.

Sexual abuse was reported to have taken place both on-site and off-site. Participants reported that abuse within residential care took place in communal places such as bathrooms or shower rooms, or in out-of-sight locations. In some cases, participants described specific rooms as seemingly dedicated to abuse-related activities.

There would be uncles who would come and visit, helpers who would come and take kids out ... Then one day some of us were taken to [country abroad] in an aeroplane on holiday ... [Then], I don’t know who they was but we went on someone’s yacht ... but I knew they were rich and important ... This was, like, normal for people to come and take kids out.

- Truth Project participant sexually abused in a residential care context


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