Maggie Atkinson, Children's Commissioner for England said:
'Society is rightly horrified by child sexual abuse. Most of our children are raised in secure loving homes but I am sure very many of us will be disturbed by how much abuse within the family environment goes unreported and how little is done to support the children who suffer. As adults we are morally and socially obliged to protect children from harm. As Children's Commissioner, I also have a legal responsibility to promote their right to protection. That is why I am using my legislative powers to launch a two-year inquiry into the sexual abuse of children and young people within the family environment.'
Sue Berelowitz, Deputy Children's Commissioner for England and Chair of the Inquiry said:
'Some studies suggest as many as one in twenty children and young people experience sexual abuse, the majority of it perpetrated by people within the family or family circle. We know that at any one time, around 43,000 children have child protection plans, only around 5% of whom are on a plan for sexual abuse. These figures do not add up. We believe substantial numbers of children are falling through the net because this abuse is not being recognised. The rapid evidence assessment we commissioned reveals alarming gaps in our knowledge about the prevalence of abuse, and what works both to prevent it and to support children who have been abused. Our national Inquiry will seek to fill these gaps and ensure children are better protected from this appalling and deeply traumatising abuse.'
Dr Miranda Horvath, Deputy Director of Forensic Psychological Services at Middlesex University and report author said:
'Child victim-survivors' voices and first-hand experiences were absent from vast majority of the research we reviewed for this rapid evidence assessment. It is imperative that future research and the work of the Inquiry brings these to the fore using ethical but innovative methods, with the wellbeing of the child at the centre. At the same time, we need to know more about programmes that are focused on preventing family-based child sexual abuse before it occurs, in order to take a preventative rather than reactive approach.'
In response to the inquiry, Barnardo’s CEO Javed Khan said:
'There are few crimes more abhorrent than the sexual abuse of children but when those perpetrating this vile act are relatives, people who are supposed to love and protect, it can be all the more harrowing.
We welcome The Office of the Children’s Commissioner’s announcement of an inquiry into this issue. Abuse within families, is by its nature a hidden crime; easy to obscure from the authorities within the confines of a tightly knit unit.
Barnardo’s works day in day out with the young victims of sexual abuse and the effect on their wellbeing can be profound. Shining a light on existing gaps in knowledge is vital if we are to support these children effectively and ensure robust procedures are in place to stamp out abuse.'
The full report is available to download here.