Up-to-date news and expert insight into the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) and other abuse claims related matters. The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has launched a landmark television public awareness campaign to ensure all victims and survivors across England and Wales have the opportunity to come forward to the Truth Project. Find out more: https://www.truthproject.org.uk/whats-involved
An investigation by The Fuller Project and VICE World News has identified that whilst the UK was once known as a destination country for victims of trafficking, it is evident that an increasing number of British Nationals are being trafficked within the borders of the UK. Statistics from the UK Government and charitable organisations show the UK is becoming an origin country for trafficking; rather than a destination country.
British people are trafficked in a number of ways including homeless people being offered jobs that then come with threats and no pay, teenagers being groomed by gangs into criminal acts, people coerced or manipulated to act as drug couriers or dealers, and girls and women forced into prostitution.
Despite recent pledges by the British Government to tackle modern slavery, advocacy groups note that criminal networks are finding it easier to target the most vulnerable Britons rather than bringing people into the country. Whilst the reason for this is not yet known, drastic government cuts to youth and family services of almost £1 billion is believed to have made a big impact.
In our comments on that press release we drew attention to the fact that one of the single most important thing for abusers is to create an opportunity to access children that they can abuse and the same can be said of vulnerable adults.
In a story published in the Daily Telegraph on the 1 August, 2021 it was reported that the Samaritans will in future listen in on calls to the service after having to report 44 serious safeguarding issues that have occurred since 2017 to the Charity Commission.
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. Visitwww.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.
On the 15July 2020 Robyn Kruk AO who had been appointed to conduct an independent review of the Australian National Redress Scheme (“the NRS”), wrote an open letter telling people that she wanted to hear from them directly about how they felt the NRS was working. The second anniversary review of the NRS was required by law having been provided for at Section 192 of the National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse Act 2018.
Due to COVID19 restrictions Robyn Kruk AO was not able to meet with people face to face to discuss their experiences and views, instead people were asked to make written submissions or submit feedback on the NRS website. She made it clear that she wanted to hear from people who had applied to the NRS and people who had not. During the course of the review, she met with 81 survivors, support services, government agencies and ministers. She received 226 submissions, which provided significant insight into the NRS, how it operated, and how to improve the survivor experience. The review had also commissioned a feedback study in which 503 survivors, support groups and institutions participated.#
In September 2020, the Department for Education introduced a compulsory Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) curriculum for both primary and secondary schools and also universities. However, teachers said they struggled to deal with classroom sexual abuse as they were not given any external training and did not feel adequate procedures were in place to properly deal with peer-on-peer sexual abuse.
On 5 July, 2021 the Northern Ireland First Minister Paul Givan and deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill announced the establishment of a review of the client journey for HIA redress to improve the experiences of victims and survivors.
In announcing the review the First Minister Paul Givan said that although much good work had been done since the redress process commenced over 15 months ago (1,090 applications have been finalised and redress totalling £20 million has been paid out) he said that there is still a clear need to consider what improvements can be made.
In May, the National Audit Office (“the NAO”) published its report into the investigations that it had carried out into the establishment and administration of the Windrush Compensation Scheme (“the Scheme”) by the Home Office and the progress the Home Office had made since implementing changes to the Scheme in December 2020.
The NAO focussed its investigation on the operations of the Scheme and also the decisions taken by the Home Office in establishing and running the Scheme to date.
In its report the NAO makes it clear that it has not sought to assess the Scheme from a user/claimant perspective as a separate inquiry into the user/claimant perspective is due to be undertaken shortly by the Home Affairs Select Committee.
The NAO has also not examined the Home Office’s separate Windrush Scheme (or Windrush taskforce), which was designed to ensure that members of the Windrush generation receive documentation confirming their lawful status in the UK. Nor has it examined the wider progress made by the Home Office in implementing the recommendations of Wendy Williams’ independent lessons-learned review published in July 2018.
The Windrush Compensation Scheme (“the Scheme”) has been beset by difficulties and criticism since it was first launched in April, 2019.
In the spring of 2018, the Home Office acknowledged serious shortcomings in its treatment of the Windrush generation, the Home Office accepted that it had treated the Windrush generation unfairly and announced a set of measures to “right the wrongs” experienced by those affected.
One of those measures was to establish the Scheme referred to above, which aimed to compensate members of the Windrush generation and their families for the losses and impacts they have suffered due to not being able to demonstrate their lawful immigration status.
In an earlier blog posted on 8 June 2020 we looked at the operation of the Scheme in its first year, even at that stage there was criticism that it had only managed to pay out £360,000 in compensation in its first year of operation.
The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has reached a preliminary $850m (£617m) settlement with 60,000 survivors of historic sexual abuse.The agreement (known as a Restructuring Support Agreement) has yet to be approved by the Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Delaware – and by the survivors.
The agreement, filed in court last week is a step toward resolving a complex bankruptcy case, and includes the BSA national leadership, survivors, and local BSA councils.
On the 8 June 2021 on what was his 80th birthday, Cardinal George Pell, Prefect Emeritus of the Secretariat for the Economy, released his Prison Journal – Volume 1 in Italian.
The book records the entries that make up Cardinal Pell’s daily diary between 27 February and 13 July 2019, when he was in prison in Melbourne on charges of sexual abuse of minors, charges from which he was completely acquitted by a High Court ruling in April 2020.
Cardinal Pell was in solitary confinement for his personal protection, and had not seen or met the 11 other prisoners in his section until his last four months in prison.
Cardinal Pell, who was interviewed by the Vatican News on the day of his 80th Birthday said that “a combination of circumstances, lies, and deceit” had led to him being imprisoned, something he could never have imagined being part of his life experience.
He told the Vatican News he has forgiven his accusers and went on to say, “I must admit that sometimes it was difficult. But, once I made the decision to forgive, everything else followed. For me, it was not so difficult to forgive the person who accused me. I knew that he was a person who had suffered and was in great confusion and who knows what else.”
Cardinal Pell hopes that his diaries might be “… helpful for those who are in difficulty, for those who are going through a time of suffering, like I was“, stating that prison taught him the importance of perseverance, the importance of simple things, like one’s faith, forgiveness and the redemption of suffering.
Cardinal Pell accepted that the sex-abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church was an opportunity for renewal, he said that the Roman Catholic Church cannot “…continue in the same vein. It is a kind of spiritual and moral cancer. It seems to me that here in Australia we have worked seriously to eradicate it, but it is a duty for all priests and all bishops in the world to ensure that these scandals do not happen again.”