IICSA press release: Inquiry publishes 1,100 child sexual abuse accounts to amplify survivors’ voices

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has released its final publication of Experiences Shared, an online anthology highlighting the accounts of more than 1,100 victims and survivors who came forward to the Inquiry’s Truth Project.  Survivors spoke of sexual abuse across multiple settings, the difficulties they’ve faced in speaking out and the devastating impacts of abuse on their lives. They emphasised the importance of a more open conversation on sexual abuse within society to spark cultural change.

Inquiry publishes 1,100 child sexual abuse accounts to amplify survivors’ voices

The Inquiry has released an online anthology highlighting the accounts of more than 1,100 victims and survivors who came forward to the Inquiry’s Truth Project. The first of its kind in the UK, the collection has along with the thousands of other experiences shared with the Truth Project helped inform primary research regarding child sexual abuse as well as recommendations for change across the Inquiry’s 19 investigation reports. Survivors spoke of sexual abuse across multiple settings, the difficulties they’ve faced in speaking out and the devastating impacts of abuse on their lives. They emphasised the importance of a more open conversation on sexual abuse within society to spark cultural change.

Ivor says ‘Terrible things have happened to me, but if I’m able to do anything to make sure other people don’t go through what I did, I’ll put my best foot forward’.

For more than six years, the Truth Project provided an opportunity for survivors of child sexual abuse to share their experiences and make suggestions to help better protect children in future. The Truth Project came to a close in October last year so accounts shared can help to inform the Inquiry’s Final Report which will be published later this year. 

Talking about sharing her experience with the Truth Project, Kayla says ‘I can’t really explain why I wanted to … it just felt comforting that there was something like this that I could feel heard’.

Alongside the accounts published today, the Inquiry has also released its latest quarterly statistics, providing an update across all areas of its work, as well as illustrating the Inquiry’s engagement with victims and survivors over time.

Those who came forward to the Truth Project described sexual abuse taking place across a range of contexts, including residential care homes, schools and religious insitutions. They talked about those in authority turning a blind eye, or being encouraged to stay silent, ignored or threatened when they reported abuse. Some said they simply had no one to tell.

Helen says ‘Children are always in the wrong and adults are always in the right … if you’re a child in these institutions you’re not listened to’. 

Victims and survivors told the Truth Project about the struggles they faced in speaking out, describing fears of being stigmatised or not being believed. Many spoke about the severe impact the sexual abuse has had across all aspects of their lives including relationships, education and work, as well as physical and mental health. For some, the effects have lasted years.

Lucille would like a greater awareness that ‘the lives of sexually abused children are damaged not for weeks or months, but for decades’.

The experiences shared also describe changes that victims and survivors hope to see in future, such as better education, greater awareness and more open conversations about the effects of child sexual abuse.

For help and support, you can access information on a range of organisations signposted on our support page.

Notes to editors 

1.     The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse is examining the extent to which institutions and organisations have failed to protect children in England and Wales from sexual abuse.

2.     Institutional failure means either the abuse was reported to someone in a position of authority, such as the police or a social worker, but appropriate action was not taken, or that the abuser was someone in a position of power, such as a teacher or religious leader.

3.  The 1,100 accounts shared with the Truth Project will be available here, including the 50 published today: https://www.truthproject.org.uk/experiences-shared

4. The Truth Project came to a close in October 2021. More than 6,000 victims and survivors shared their accounts in person, over the phone, via video call or in writing. 

5.     The Inquiry will also publish its latest quarterly statistics, as well as illustrating the Inquiry’s engagement with victims and survivors over time.

IICSA residential schools report

Conclusions and recommendations

The Inquiry’s Residential Schools Report has concluded that schools are not as safe for children as they should be and that children’s interests still do not always come first when allegations of sexual abuse are made.  The report states that in spite of increased awareness of the risk some children continue to experience sexual abuse and sexual harassment in schools and highlighted the particular safeguarding challenges prevalent in music schools, boarding schools and residential special schools.

The report states that schools need to alter their mind set and accept that ‘it could happen here’ and in the case of harmful sexual behaviour between pupils that ‘it probably is happening here’. The Inquiry heard evidence about ineffective safeguarding in schools during the past 20 years and the testimonies on the Everyone’s Invited website demonstrate that currently, for children in some schools, sexual abuse and harassment between peers remain endemic. 


The report adds that many of the schools examined by the Inquiry responded inadequately to allegations against their staff and in some cases there was a culture which discouraged reporting. Too often, the Inquiry saw examples of head teachers who found it inconceivable that staff might abuse their positions of authority to sexually abuse children, were unaware of current statutory guidance or did not understand their role in responding to allegations against staff. It was clear that some staff were more focused on protecting the reputation of the school than protecting the interests of the children.

The report also highlights that for many victims and survivors, the impact of abuse has been profound and lifelong. In addition, it mentions that many of those in positions of authority and responsibility have not been held to account for their failures of leadership and governance and that many perpetrators have not been brought to justice.

The recommendations made in the report can be summarised as follows :

  • Specific recommendations for residential schools to include inspection, reporting duties and a system of licensing and registration of educational guardians for international students
  • The introduction of national standards for LADOs to promote consistency and statutory guidance confirming that LADOs can provide informal advice
  • Amendments to Independent School Standards to include the requirement to have an effective system of governance
  • The establishment of nationally accredited standards and levels of safeguarding training in schools, with the highest level of training being mandatory for head teachers and DSLs
  • Schools to be required to inform the relevant inspectorate when a member of staff has been referred to the DBS, the Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA) or the Education Workforce Council
  • Regulations to be amended to bring all teaching assistants, learning support staff and cover supervisors within the misconduct jurisdiction of the TRA

The potential impacts of the report

We share a number of thoughts as to the potential impact as follows:

  • This report may well encourage previously reluctant victims of historical abuse in schools to come forward and/or be encouraged to do so.
  • The number of schools investigated by IICSA was only a very small sample. There will be other school in England and Wales which could have had similar historical CSA issues. Victims from those schools may well now feel empowered to raise complaints and claims.
  • Renewal audits, especially with Independent Specialist schools, should ensure that the schools safeguarding policy reflects good practice and takes account of the recent recommendations.  Particular focus should be given to the schools ability to review, monitor and respond to Specialist Tutors performance or concerns about their behaviour.
  • The Everyone’s Invited (“EI”) movement is referenced a number of times in the report. EI focusses on more contemporary, peer on peer abuse and harassment behaviours. EI has a significant and very active media profile and the types of claims that could arise from EI scenarios are much wider than conventional CSA injury claims. Potential arguments around systemic failings in an institution’s safeguarding practice, and the impact these failings had on the claimant’s mental health are likely to be referenced in claims. The combination of all these factors and the additional profile raising of EI by IICSA may well have a significant impact on the claims numbers and the way they are presented.
  • EI is referenced in complaints raised directly with schools.  Complaints of harassment are raised alongside systemic failure allegations;  accounts from fellow pupils are referenced to support complaints about a schools failures to adequately respond to inappropriate behaviour/harassment/assault. 
  • Limitation and mandatory reporting are going to be the subject of IICSA’s final report expected “later in 2022”. The nature of the recommendations made by IICSA may impact on future civil claims for damages.

Written by Sarah Murray-Smith at BLM sarah.murray-smith@blmlaw.com

IICSA publishes Residential Schools report

Today, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has published its Residential Schools report.

IICSA PRESS RELEASE: Schools reluctant to report child sexual abuse by staff and pupils, report finds

A new report from the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse highlights shocking and horrific instances of child sexual abuse in schools, with some teachers exploiting their positions of trust to groom and abuse children across all types of educational settings examined by the Inquiry. 

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IICSA press release: Victims and survivors say tackling child sexual abuse needs cultural change

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) has today published 50 accounts victims and survivors have shared with its Truth Project. The following press release from IICSA provides further details:

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Inquiry’s report now published: Child Sexual Exploitation by Organised Networks

Today, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has published its 18th investigation report, ‘Child Sexual Exploitation by Organised Networks’. The report can be accessed here.

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Australian Redress Scheme amended to make provision for elderly and terminally ill – National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse Amendment Act 2021

Legislation to amend the Australian National Redress Scheme (NRS) was passed on 2 September 2021 and came into force on the 13 of September 2021.

The National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse Amendment Act 2021(the 2021 Act) implements the following recommendations of the final report of the second year review of the NRS by amending the National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse Act 2018 as follows:-

  • provide for advance payments of AUS$10 000 to elderly or terminally ill applicants, or where there are other exceptional circumstances for particularly vulnerable people
  • change the date for which the indexation of relevant prior payments is calculated
  • extend the acceptance period of a redress offer after it has expired and provide for the period within which to seek a review to be aligned with any extension to the acceptance period
  • remove the requirement for an application to include a statutory declaration, and
  • provide for redress payments and counselling and psychological care payments to be made in instalments rather than as a lump sum, if requested by an applicant.
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IICSA: Child protection in religious organisations and settings – the investigation report

IICSA has published its long-awaited findings in relation to the child protection in religious organisations and settings investigation.

The inquiry acknowledged the complexity of some of the religious organisations featured in the report, such as the structure of the organisations and, in many cases, the autonomy that many places of religious worship had from the organisations themselves. They determined it was often not in the religious organisation’s remit to regulate or govern their members.

IICSA’s work touched upon not only the religious settings themselves, but schools (including unregistered schools) operated by the religious organisations, out-of-school settings, as well as other community services offered.

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IICSA launches dashboard based on accounts given to the Truth Project

IICSA has prepared a dashboard as part of its research programme, which provides information about the 5,440 victims and survivors who attended at the Truth Project from June 2016 to June 2021.

The dashboard provides information about:

  • the victims and survivors of child sexual abuse
  • the nature of the abuse that they experienced
  • where the sexual abuse took place and who the perpetrators were
  • the impacts of child sexual abuse, and
  • whether those victims and survivors told anyone about the abuse.
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Child sexual abusers use similar tactics to groom children in institutions, Inquiry report finds

On the 13 July, IICSA published the following press release:

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has published new research which finds that tactics exploited by perpetrators working in institutions enable child sexual abuse to continue even today.

Based on analysis of Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) case files between 2017 – 2020, the research examines the offending strategies of alleged perpetrators across a wide range of contemporary institutional contexts, such as schools, sport and foster care, as well as the nature of abuse and responses of professionals.

 Across the 43 cases examined, alleged perpetrators used similar methodical grooming strategies, including: 

  • targeting and isolating children
  • building friendships which developed into sexually abusive ‘relationships’, based on trust and codependency with children
  • befriending children’s friends and families over time. 

The research revealed that alleged perpetrators, such as teachers and sports coaches, harnessed their professional reputations and authority to manipulate other adults, and perpetrate child sexual abuse undetected.

Creating cultures of fear, they threatened, blackmailed or intimidated children to deter them from reporting the child sexual abuse and with limited opportunities for disclosure, children often had noone to turn to. 

Informal social relationships, social gatherings and contact between adults and children was normalised within institutions, whilst technology, in particular social media, was found to provide new opportunities for adults working in institutions to access and sexually abuse children. 

The research report reveals that in many cases, individuals denied the allegations or constructed a mitigation narrative to justify, explain or minimise the child sexual abuse. This included framing sexually abusive relationships as consensual and romantic, or putting the blame on the child. Some alleged perpetrators claimed that they had made “mistakes” or “poor judgements” whilst others disputed that they held ‘positions of trust’, therefore safeguarding policies did not apply to them, and had therefore not been breached.

There were also a number of examples where the institutions did not believe children’s disclosures, in particular in cases where alleged perpetrators denied the allegations against them. In some cases, it was clear that institutions chose to preserve the alleged perpetrator’s reputation and their own, above protecting children who reported child sexual abuse.

The research also found that there were numerous missed opportunities to safeguard children because concerns were not escalated and institutions and staff did not always share, record and respond appropriately. A lack of coordination with agencies, weak vetting processes and poor record keeping allowed individuals to offend multiple times within institutions, or to continue offending across institutional contexts and over long periods of time. There were also instances where the onus was placed on the alleged perpetrators to declare their own criminal histories.

Despite significant safeguarding policies being in place, these were not upheld and inaction or institutional complacency enabled alleged perpetrators to operate without being detected and continue to sexually abuse children. 

Principal researcher Julienne Zammit said:

“This groundbreaking research provides new insight into the behaviour of perpetrators across contemporary institutional contexts, finding the use of similar tactics to groom and sexually abuse children. Alleged perpetrators denied or minimised the sexual abuse, in some cases even blaming the victim. 

“Sexually abusive relationships were often framed as consensual and social media was frequently exploited to groom and perpetrate child sexual abuse, providing access to children in unsupervised and unmonitored online spaces.

“Where reports were made, opportunities to safeguard children were missed or actively blocked because concerns were not escalated and disclosures were not always believed. In some cases, it was clear that institutions chose to put their reputation above protecting children who reported child sexual abuse.”

Survivors of child sexual abuse can share their experiences with the Inquiry’s Truth Project over the phone, via video call or in writing. Visit www.truthproject.org.uk for more information.

This research is the first of its kind involving both men and women added to the DBS Children’s Barred List.

For many readers of this blog, the information set out above will just sadly confirm much of what they know already to be the case when considering this topic.

However, there are simple lessons to be learned in terms of future safeguarding, children of any age, background, socio-economic status, gender, sexual orientation and/or vulnerability can be abused, there is no typical victim. Equally abusers can be from any background, socio-economic status, gender and/or sexual orientation they can be men, women or young people. The single most important thing for abusers is to create an opportunity to access children that they can abuse. If we are to safeguard children effectively in the future in the real and the virtual world, it is these opportunities that we must identify and regulate. We must ensure all the necessary safeguards are in place in the first instance and are fully utilised by all the relevant personnel when abuse of children is suspected and/or reported.


Written by Sharon Moohan at BLM sharon.moohan@blmlaw.com