Last week (20th October 2022), the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse released its final statutory report.
The Inquiry was established by the then Home Secretary in March 2015, and this final report is the culmination of years of investigations, hearings and research into child sexual abuse, including the Truth Project which gave voice to thousands of survivors.
The report sets out the main findings about the extent to which state and non-state institutions in England and Wales failed in their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation.
Child sexual abuse (CSA) is a form of violence against women and girls. Like all forms of sexual violence, it is a deeply gendered issue: 89% of the Truth Project survivors were abused by men or multiple men.
While acknowledging that the true scale of sexual abuse of children is likely to have been much higher than the actual numbers recorded, the Inquiry also highlighted that CSA disproportionately affects girls (1 in 6 girls under 16 were victims compared to 1 in 20 boys of the same age).
Children experiencing multiple forms of discrimination and inequality, such as disabled participants to the Inquiry, were twice as likely to have experienced child sexual abuse as non-disabled participants. Those who lived in a care home were nearly four times as likely to have experienced child sexual abuse.
These findings underscore the urgent need for change and highlight the need for a gendered and intersectional response to child sexual abuse.
The Inquiry’s report also found evidence of victim blaming language in almost every institution, as well as institutions prioritising their reputations over the protection of children.
Janaya Walker, Public Affairs Manager at the End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW), said:
“We’re grateful to the many survivors who shared their experiences with the inquiry in the hope that others will be better protected.
Their accounts are incredibly powerful. They pay testament to not only the long-lasting effects of child sexual abuse, but also the urgency and depth of the change needed to end this injustice
It’s a national scandal that many of the issues faced by participants to the Inquiry remain today. These include widespread victim-blaming, the police and criminal justice system routinely wrongly concluding there’s insufficient evidence to proceed with a case, and endemic delays to investigations and criminal proceedings.
Child sexual abuse is not a problem of the past. We’re pleased to see the Inquiry acknowledge the ‘explosion’ of online-facilitated child sexual abuse. The government has a real opportunity to address this by including violence against women and girls in the Online Safety Bill.
We call on the new Prime Minister to affirm his commitment to ending violence against women and girls in all its forms. This means ensuring that the new online safety law addresses violence against women and girls, sustainably funding vital support services, and retaining the government commitment to transforming the criminal justice system for survivors – the progress of which remains far too slow.”
Sinead Geoghegan, Communications Manager, firstname.lastname@example.org 07960 744 502