Child sex abuse: Failing to report it should be considered illegal - major investigation

Anyone who works with children and doesn't report child sexual abuse should be prosecuted, the final report from a major seven-year investigation has recommended. It called the nature and scale of abuse in England and Wales "appalling and deeply disturbing" with children "threatened, beaten and humiliated".

The investigation began in 2015 and cost £186 million with evidence from 7,000 victims. Chief Prof Alexis Jay described an "epidemic that left thousands of victims in a toxic wake". Prof Jay said some victims would never recover from their experiences.

"We hear time and time again how allegations of abuse are being ignored, victims are being blamed and institutions are prioritizing their reputation over child protection," he said.

"We can't just hold on to it and take it as a historical perversion when so much of what we've learned suggests it's a growing problem that's exacerbated by current and future internet threats."

Inquiry: Key facts

The Independent Investigation into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) was established in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal by Home Secretary Theresa May.

Hundreds of people turned up after the presenter's death in 2011 to say he abused them as children.

Public investigations are given broad powers to investigate historical allegations of child abuse, dating back to the 1950s, as well as claims that authorities, including the police, failed to properly investigate these allegations. Some 7,000 victims of abuse have testified and 725 provided evidence during 325 days of public hearings, contributing to 15 investigations and dozens of reports.\

Former prime minister Theresa May told BBC News she had "no idea" about the scale of child abuse when she set up the investigation as interior minister, and was "absolutely horrified" as it became clearer.

"The sad thing is that very often children bring up this. Children say this is happening to them and we don't listen," he added.

The report said the perpetrators' "deviousness and cruelty are limitless", adding that institutions too often "prioritise their personal and institutional reputations over the well-being of the people they must protect."

"Abuse is often given to victims who are treated as if they don't deserve to be protected."

Some agencies did not respond to investigative inquiries at all, while others offered only "sincere apologies and inadequate support and counselling".

The investigation has been criticized for focusing too much on past events, but the IICSA report says that online abuse has increased in recent years and that there are many lessons for modern organizations to learn.

"The protection of children should be given a much greater priority in public life," he concluded.

The inquiry said its 20 key recommendations needed to be accepted by the government as "a matter of urgency". This includes new laws that place an obligation to report child abuse to anyone who witnesses it or is told about it by a child or abuser.

Failure to do so will result in a criminal offense unless the behavior is carried out on a consensual and non-violent basis between young people of the same age.

This would include “anyone who works with children”, an investigative official said, as defined under the Sexual Offenses Act 2003. There are currently no legal and criminal requirements to report child sexual abuse, although people may be required to do so under terms of their employment or code of conduct. Wales has a limited legal obligation to report but there are no penalties for not doing so.

The mandatory reporting recommendation will be widely welcomed by campaigners who say it is critical to prevent institutions from covering up abuse to protect their reputation.

The investigation also proposed a new child protection authority for England and Wales - and a new single scheme to compensate victims of abuse.

It dismissed concerns that victims might "lie for money" as "misplaced and offensive" and said victims found the current legal system "hostile, confusing and futile" and often gave up trying to claim.

The investigation demanded that the government require internet search service providers and social networks to screen child abuse material before it is uploaded.

Call to get boarding schools to report abuse claims

Police and council fail in treatment - report The final report of the thorough investigation was published on Thursday. It has published reports highlighting the scale of abuse in various institutions, including religious organizations, politics, children's homes and schools.

It also highlighted the "undue respect of the police, prosecutors and political parties" for prominent individuals accused of abuse.

The Roman Catholic Church is leading "a sad history of child sexual abuse in which priests and members of violent orders preyed on children for a long time", the report said.

Between 1970 and 2015, there were 3,000 complaints and 133 convictions. Millions have been paid in compensation to the victims. In the Church of England there are 390 beliefs that date back to the 1940s.

In other religions there have been "significant barriers to effective reporting of child sexual abuse, including victim blaming and ideas of shame and honor".

The investigation examined claims of abuse at children's homes including, Cambridge House and Knowl View, in Rochdale. At the Nottinghamshire children's home there were 350 complainants of staff abuse.

Another massive abuse scandal centered on Lambeth Council in south London where an investigation said it was "difficult to understand the atrocities and sexual abuse perpetrated on children". The investigation has identified particular concerns about boarding schools and some specialist schools, such as those that teach music and highlighted a "very sad case" in which the school was seen as more important than the victim.

The inquiry said the post-war program of child migration to Australia and other Commonwealth countries had been "grossly flawed" and caused "lifelong damage to children".

When the investigation began, there were strong rumors that the "Westminster pedophile ring" was abusing children. IICSA found no evidence of that, although it did find many "individual perpetrators".

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