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Report reveals alarming gaps in knowledge about family child abuse

Children’s Commissioner launches national inquiry

A report into child sexual abuse in the family environment has revealed alarming gaps in knowledge about its prevalence, effects, and how best to prevent it. Concern about the findings has led the Deputy Children's Commissioner for England to use the Children's Commissioner's legislative powers to today launch a national inquiry into this troubling form of child sexual abuse.

The report, 'It's a lonely journey' A Rapid Evidence Assessment on Intrafamilial Child Sexual Abuse is based on an examination of 57,226 research studies into child sexual abuse commissioned by the Office of the Children's Commissioner from Middlesex University. It found glaring omissions in what is known about child sexual abuse in family environments. This includes an almost complete lack of research directly looking into children and young people's experiences of what would help to prevent it or to support those who have been abused. The report highlights a particular lack of knowledge about the experiences of disabled children and those from minority ethnic groups. It also finds that most services to support people who have experienced child sexual abuse within a family context are targeted at adult survivors rather than children. Worryingly, little is known about the prevalence of long-term psychological and physical harm caused by sexual abuse in family environments and almost nothing about the economic cost this places on society.

The Office of the Children's Commissioner's two-year national Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse In The Family Environment will seek to determine how widespread it is, what must be done to support the victims, and how it can best be prevented. The Inquiry will investigate children's experiences of this type of sexual abuse and make recommendations on how services should respond. It will examine evidence of what works well to prevent it from occurring, as well as how children who have experienced it should be helped. The forced marriage of children will fall within the scope of the Inquiry as this invariably leads to child sexual abuse.

The report is here.