Whether it has been high profile perpetrators such as Jimmy Savile; reports of abuse in institutions such as children’s homes; or that in group contexts in towns such as Rotherham, in recent years truly disturbing reports of child sexual abuse have rarely been out of the news.
Last week, over twenty years’ since first calling for it, Graham Allen MP led a debate in Parliament about establishing a national institute for the study and prevention of child sexual abuse, an idea that the Government has recently backed and for which they should be applauded.
Graham Allen argues that Parliament’s response to child sexual abuse must be driven by sound evidence, rather than knee-jerk reactions and that the national institute would play a powerful role in helping prevent abuse .
Of course, he is absolutely right in saying that services and support should be evidence-based. However, the media should also be applauded for the critical role it has played in doggedly raising national consciousness about child sexual abuse, in all of it forms, and also in publicly challenging all of us who are paid to protect children with doing so properly.
It is not that long ago, that there was no national debate about child sexual abuse. Some academics argued that the numbers of children being abused were declining – current evidence suggests that around 6% of the population of England experiences child abuse and that there are around 600,000 under 18 year olds in the country today who are being or have been abused. Others were too swift to dismiss abuse of young people as a lifestyle choice if they had sex. Thankfully many are now thinking again.
I believe that there are signs that attitudes are beginning to change and that many are now truly waking up to the scale and harm of child sexual abuse and absolute necessity that we now tackle it. The Government, as it should do, has taken leadership in this area and the police have made addressing it, a national priority. Worryingly, as Rotherham demonstrated, many of these attitudes probably still persist at the frontline in many areas.
That is why I wholeheartedly support the establishment of the institute to look at tackling child sexual abuse once and for all. It is also why I am currently running an inquiry into abuse in the family context, which is by far the most common form of abuse. In this, the first year of the inquiry we are gathering evidence on abuse within families from organisations charged with protecting children, from adult survivors and from children themselves.
We are currently running a survey of adult survivors of abuse. The experiences of suvivors who complete it will help to protect children from abuse today. If you are one of the many thousands of adult survivors in this country who may read this blog and you feel able to contribute your experiences to help children who may be being abused today and prevent future abuse, please complete our confidential survey.
Together we can take bold and determined steps to prevent the sexual abuse of children.