[United Kingdom] Unseen Evil: Sex Abuse in Families going Under the Radar, say Inspectorates

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04 Feb 2020

Around two-thirds of all child sexual abuse is committed by a family member.

A new report shows that sexually abused children and their cases are hidden from view because of a lack of knowledge and support from local authorities, agencies and even within the community. Furthermore, agencies are ill-equipped and do not use their sources for prevention. There is no national or local strategy to tackle sexual abuse of children. Inspectors lack knowledge, and even the professionals don’t know enough about abusers (how to identify and/or stop them).

The report, The Multi-agency Response to Child Sexual Abuse in the Family Environment, examines how social care, health, youth offending, police and probation services work together to keep children safe from familial sexual abuse. It calls on policy makers to give more attention to the problem, and to bring offenders to justice so children are protected from them.

Report findings:

  • Investigations are more about the work of the police and not the well-being of the child, who are left without medical treatment or mental health support.
  • The investigation takes too much time, during which children are left in danger.
  • Lack of education and discussion about the topic leads to a lack of prevention.
  • The work of professionals depends on children, but it is quite unlikely for children to speak about sexual abuse to a stranger.
  • Inspectors found examples of good and effective work too, but a more consistent and strategic approach would make a bigger impact and have greater efficacy. Communities, the media and other organisations would need to play a role in creating an environment where children and adults can talk about sexual abuse.

Inspectors share a common perspective on the problem and the system that is set up to address it. They all agree on how to improve the situation:

  • 'Prevention is the best form of protection.' (Armanda Spielman)
  • It is important to share and cross-check information, and to provide an environment where anyone can feel comfortable speaking about sexual abuse.
  • The issue should get more attention through increased awareness.
  • Children should be the priority in a case.
  • Professionals need better training and support.

Notes to editors

  • Amanda Spielman is available for interviews. Please contact Ofsted’s press office on 03000 131 673 to arrange.
  • The six local authorities visited were Bracknell Forest, Cornwall, Derby City, Islington, Shropshire and York.
  • Sexual abuse in the family environment may be perpetrated by a family member, including a child or adult sibling, or by a person close to, or known to the family (a family friend, a partner of a parent or other trusted adult).

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