Recommendations made by Children’s commissioner in major child sex abuse report 24 Nov 2015

The most detailed analysis of child sex abuse in England to date has been released by the children’s commissioner in which she has made new recommendations to the government in order to prevent child abuse.

The report found:

  • Although 50,000 cases of child abuse were reported from April 2012 to March 2014, the report suggests that the actual number was up to 450,000;
  • Two-Thirds of child sexual abuse took place within the family environment or close circle around it;
  • 75% of victims are girls
  • In most cases victims do not speak out until adolescence or later when they recognise what has taken place
  • Abuse was most likely to have occurred at the age of nine;
  • In cases, even if the child spoke out, often the abuse did not stop.

Children’s commissioner Anne Longfield said in the report that recent attention and investigations had focused on abuse perpetrated by an institution or group of individuals. “We must now wake up to and urgently address the most common form of child sexual abuse – that which takes place behind the front door within families or their trusted circles.”

The report made the following government recommendations:

  • Compulsory lessons for school children as young as five teaching them about healthy and safe relationship;
  • To teach children to talk to an appropriate adult if they are worried about abuse;
  • Training of teachers to recognise the signs and symptoms of child abuse
  • To support children from the moment they disclose the abuse and to have a child psychologist in evidence interviews with the child;
  • To ensure that all police forces record child sexual abuse related crimes.

Stephanie Prior, head of child abuse claims at Osbornes Solicitors comments:

“In 18 years as a child abuse litigator I have represented many victims who have been abused in institutions, by Jimmy Savile or in foster placements but many were previously abused by a family member which is why they were placed in the care system at the outset. Several were exhibiting sexualised behaviour as children because of learned sexual experience in the family home before entering the care system.  

Children are vulnerable and need the love and support of adults throughout their childhood.  If they are abused by a family member as a small child then they have no way of understanding the concept of normal family values and can lead to them becoming vulnerable during the rest of their childhood and this vulnerability can extend to adulthood.

The fact that the report concludes that 75% of victims are female is interesting as I would say that the majority of the cases that I am investigating are on behalf of male adults how were abused as children.

The report also says that the common age for abuse to occur is about the age of 9 and I would say that many of my clients were aged between 8 – 12 years of age when the abuse first started.  Almost all of my clients did not speak out about the abuse at the time and waited until they were older or adults to tell a third party. The reasoning behind this is that at the time of the abuse they did not understand the concept of what was going on.  As a child a parent or family member is supposed to nurture and care for their child not sexually abuse them.  This makes reporting of the abuse confusing for the victim. Love for the family member will be distorted.

With regards to teachers and other professionals recognising the signs that a child is a victim of child abuse, many of my clients provide me with a similar history of how they behaved at school –  withdrawn, tired, lack of focus and concentration all of which led to poor educational attainment. It would seem that in cases involving abuse in the 1970’s/1980’s professionals were unable to identify the obvious signs that all was not well at home. Nowadays it should be glaringly obvious that a withdrawn child at school has something going on at home whether it is sexual abuse or other difficulties, there is very little excuse not to pick up on these signals early”.

Osbornes Solictors is working with NAPAC on their one day course – Supporting Adult Survivors of Childhood Abuse (SASCA), which is a training programme for professionals who may be working with survivors of childhood abuse. Stephanie will be speaking at the courses being held on the 12th and 14th of January 2016. These courses are being held at the Osbornes office in Camden, North London.

Stephanie is a member of and accredited by The Association of Child Abuse Lawyers (ACAL). She is also ranked as a leading lawyer in London by Chambers & Partners 2016 who describe her as “highly respected for handling claims made by victims of sexual abuse.”

To speak with Stephanie in confidence you can call her on 020 7485 8811 or e-mail her on stephanieprior@osborneslaw.com

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