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Child sex abuse victims ‘accused of lying by police’, inquiry finds

One victim was called a ‘little bitch’ by police officer after reporting crime, report says

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Thursday 24 June 2021 18:57 BST
Repeated questioning by different officers left victims feeling ‘disbelieved from the outset’
Repeated questioning by different officers left victims feeling ‘disbelieved from the outset’ (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Police officers often accuse young victims of child sexual abuse of lying when they try to report crimes, a report has found.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) said “many” survivors gave similar accounts of being disbelieved, and one was referred to as a “little bitch” by a police officer.

“Experience of the police varied dramatically,” said a report released on Thursday. “Some of the young victims and survivors told us that the police do not believe a child if they do not get upset.

“Another young victim and survivor explained that she used laughter as a way of dissociating from the sexual abuse, but that this had led the police to question her sincerity.”

Some young victims also told IICSA that police had not kept their reports fully confidential, causing reprisals from associates of their abusers.

In some cases, police had visited schools and family homes without warning, and left victims feeling “disbelieved from the outset” because of repeated questioning by different officers.

The majority of young victims interviewed by IICSA said there had been no prosecution in their cases, which “left them wondering why they had gone through such a traumatic process when there were no consequences for the perpetrator”.

The report was published days after a review of rape cases sparked fresh scrutiny of prosecution rates, which stand at under 4 per cent of all recorded sex offences in England and Wales.

IICSA also found that police and other professionals were seen as dismissive of peer-on-peer abuse by other children, with a tendency to label it as “domestic“ or blame the victim.

Interviewees told the inquiry not enough was being done within schools to recognise and respond to child sexual abuse and exploitation, and that relationships and sex education was “largely inadequate”.

IICSA spoke to 56 victims and survivors of child sexual abuse between the ages of 11 and 21, and 77 specialist support workers for its latest report.

The wider inquiry, which was established in 2014 to examine how UK institutions protected children from sexual abuse following the Jimmy Savile scandal, continues.

The National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for child protection, Deputy Chief Constable Ian Critchley, said: “We will review and reflect on this report in relation to the panel's engagement with children and young people.

“By listening to and hearing from young people who have courageously shared their experiences, we can continue to improve how we protect children from harm and give confidence in how we respond when abuse is reported to us.

“Whilst it is deeply concerning to hear that some young victims and survivors of child sexual abuse have been accused of lying when coming forward to police, I know that we have dedicated, professional staff across the country who treat victims with compassion, respect and take reports of child abuse seriously.

“We will consider very seriously the views of young people within this report and use it to further develop the way we work together with our partners to protect children.”

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