Sexual abuse in families is believed to make up two-thirds of all child sexual abuse, but these children are being let down by the system according to reports from the children’s commissioner’s office.
The commissioner’s office recently released 3 reports on how child sexual abuse is investigated and the role schools have to play in the prevention of such abuse.
The reports conclude that young people who have suffered abuse are being failed at every stage of the process. Sexual abuse carried out within the family, or by someone connected to the family, is in itself a barrier to accessing help. Children are being prevented from seeking help by fear, coercion, loyalty to the abuser and the desire to protect other family members.
Nevertheless a significant number of children report abuse themselves when authorities such as schools or social services have failed to pick up on signs. But even after they have been able to tell someone what has happened to them they are frequently let down again, with investigations into sexual offences against children taking an average of 100 days longer than those against adults. There are long waits for psychological therapy and survivors of abuse are often discouraged from having any treatment until the criminal investigation is completed.
As few as 1 in 8 people who have suffered child sexual abuse come to the attention of the authorities, suggesting that the scale of this crime is far greater than that currently being dealt with by the authorities. A rise in the reporting of sexual offences is placing a strain on the justice system but still the vast majority of victims of abuse never come to the attention of the authorities, highlighting the urgent need for more to be done.
The commissioner’s reports also considered what can be learned from survivors of abuse. Together with the NSPCC researchers from the University of Bedfordshire spoke to young people aged between 5 and 19 about their experiences of abuse within a family setting. Survivors described feeling abandoned after telling their families what they had suffered. They spoke of a frustrating lack of support. While many teachers reported being confident they would be able to recognise the signs of abuse it was found that schools did not always do all they could to prevent incidents by, for example, educating children about seeking help.
The children’s commissioner, Anne Longfield, has called for urgent changes to the system including the approach used in Iceland where services ranging from medical examination to therapy are provided under one roof. Other suggestions include improvements in the way professionals such as teachers listen to and talk with children about abuse, compulsory lessons in schools covering issues such as consent and online grooming and an independent advocate being assigned to help survivors of abuse navigate the court system when their abusers are brought to trial.
After (or in parallel with) the criminal process survivors of sexual abuse are often entitled to seek compensation. Compensation can help ease financial burdens as well as allowing access to private treatment to aid recovery from the trauma they have suffered. Some family based abuse claims can be made against the individual abuser (if they have the financial means to pay) or from a body which failed to sagfeguard the victim, such as a local authority. Where that is not an option then compensation may be claimed from the government’s Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA).
If an institution was responsible for the abuser at the time of the offences such as a teacher in a achool or a priest in a church, then compensation may be claimed from that organisation. Where abuse was occurring in a family setting and Social Services were involved there may be a claim against them if they failed to act quickly enough to remove children from an abusive setting.
Our dedicated team of specialist abuse lawyers are highly experienced in recovering compensation for victims of sexual abuse. We operate nationwide and have assisted abuse survivors in many high profile cases. Cases are often funded on a No Win – No Fee basis, so there is usually no financial risk involved.
To find out more you can contact us on a confidential either by email - email@example.com - or phone 0808 1391597