Report commissioned by IICSA reports that ethnic minority survivors of child sexual abuse don’t trust police or social care

On the 29 April 2021, IICSA published a report setting out its findings following engagement with support services for ethnic minority communities.

The engagement report had been commissioned by IICSA’s Chair and Panel however, the Engagement Panel have made it clear that the report does not include any formal recommendations from IICSA and is separate from the formal investigative work and public hearings conducted by IICSA and is also separate from IICSA’s research strand.

The Engagement Panel spoke to 107 organisations over 18 months, the organisations including some domestic and sexual violence support services, women’s groups, religious charities, mental health agencies and specific ethnic minority organisations and all of the organisations who contributed work closely with victims and survivors of child sexual abuse from ethnic minority communities.

Six common themes have been identified in the course of the engagement:-

  • Mistrust of and inadequate access to services: Many victims and survivors from ethnic minority backgrounds told the Engagement Panel that they do not trust organisations such as the police, health and social care, and sexual abuse services. They also spoke about sometimes finding it difficult to access these services as a result of racist behaviour and/or attitudes from statutory services.
  • Language:  Over 50% of those who took part in the engagement identified language as an impediment to disclosing and reporting child sexual abuse which was often further exacerbated due to the poor quality of interpreting services that were provided. Victims and survivors were keen to make it clear that while they may speak English their English may not be good enough to describe the abuse that they have suffered and they may need additional support around disclosures of this nature.
  • Closed communities: Some particular groups such as the Romany, Irish Traveller, UltraOrthodox Jewish and some South Asian diaspora communities spoke of additional barriers to disclosure, particularly around separate religious and internal support and justice systems that exist within their own communities.  Victims and survivors reported that on occasion community leaders seek to limit access to external support services in order to protect the community and culture from outside influence or harm.
  • Culture: Victims and Survivors reported that organisations do not always recognise or support their cultural and religious needs  as members of ethnic minorities and that ‘cultural sensitivity’ can be used as a basis for treating ethnic minority victims and survivors differently and make it harder for them to report or disclose abuse.
  • Shame and honour: Cultural values in ethnic minority communities around shame and honour within communities can effectively silence victims and survivors as in many cases are conflicted as any disclosure of abuse by them may damage the reputation of their family or ethnic community.
  • Education: Further education for victims and survivors was identified as a pressing need as in some instances victims and survivors from ethnic minority backgrounds do not take part in school relationships and sex education programmes and that this in turn can prevent disclosure or reporting of child sexual abuse  in some ethnic minority communities

The findings of the report will no doubt inform the ongoing work of IICSA and will more importantly provide further insight into how organisations working with these ethnic minority victims and survivors can take further action to protect children from sexual abuse and how to improve the processes currently in place to facilitate disclosure and access to support services.

For those of you who are interested in reading the report in full or who may be working with and/or providing services to these ethnic minority communities the full text of the report can be accessed here.

Written by Sharon Moohan at BLM

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