One year on from the IICSA: Protecting children from sexual abuse

Wednesday 01 November 2023

Last year, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse examined how different institutions protect children from sexual abuse. Today, we reflect on the inquiry & discuss the importance of reporting child sexual abuse.

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What to do if you have concerns about a child’s welfare or if you need some parenting advice

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Why is mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse important?

The IICSA shone a light on the horrific crime of child sexual abuse. Stories told by those contributing to the ‘truth project’ were painful and shocking to read. For too long, child sexual abuse has been allowed to flourish in our society. What’s worse, the words used to describe it still bring on shame for victims. Yet, without these stories, there is no data, no safeguarding, and no prosecution. As a society, we must decide how more reports of child sexual abuse can be acted upon.

Scared boy on staircase

“I started my career in child protection in the late 80s as a sexual abuse counsellor for children. Talking about sexual abuse is one of the hardest things a child may ever do - the abuser has created the shame, terror and self-doubt.”

Deanna Neilson, Director of Safeguarding at Action for Children

The cost can be so high for children and young people to tell - so high that no one may ever know. A disclosure comes out in broken words, half sentences, writing like graffiti, or sometimes drawings. Sometimes, the way a child acts and relates to others may be the only indicator. Physical signs and changes may be the only clue for children who due to their disabilities can't move or speak.

Why do people not report instances of child sexual abuse?

There are so many reasons why people may not report: their own fear and experiences, a desire to protect someone powerful, a disbelief that something so terrible could happen, and an uncertainty that what they're seeing in a child or young person is a sign of sexual abuse. A mandatory reporting duty must include education and support for all those working with children and young people so that more sexual abuse is reported.

Serious girl staring at camera

How is Action for Children taking action?

At Action for Children, we listen to children and young people on a daily basis in all of our services. This listening is done through being with them, engaging in play, observing them, reading their work and pictures, using communication methods that they understand, and offering therapeutic care. We encourage you to take up that listening with the children you work with, always being aware and being open to hearing their stories.

It can be difficult to know what to do if you think a child is at risk. Speaking up can make sure that child gets help as soon as possible. The sooner you contact your local children’s social care duty team, the quicker they can act. They’re available 24 hours a day, and can make an anonymous report if that feels safer.

Worried about a child?

What to do if you have concerns about a child’s welfare or if you need some parenting advice

Report a concern