One in three people who suspect child abuse do nothing, research suggests

The research suggests many people still have deep reservations about reporting child abuse concerns

Siobhan Fenton
Friday 20 May 2016 18:04 BST
Research suggests people find reporting abuse more difficult than relaying the death of a loved one
Research suggests people find reporting abuse more difficult than relaying the death of a loved one (REX Features)

A third of people who suspect child abuse do not report it, concerning research has shown.

15 per cent of people have suspected child abuse at some point in their life but just two thirds have taken steps to report their concerns to the police or relevant authority. Fear of having misread a situation and wrongly accusing someone is the biggest factor which deters reporting.

The research, commissioned by the Department for Education, interviewed 2,504 adults in the UK about child abuse concerns. It found 37 per cent of people would find reporting child abuse ‘more challenging than delivering news about the death or a friend or family member’. Similarly, 36 per cent said they would find it ‘more challenging than reporting the crime of a family member’.

The findings follow news that police are receiving unprecedented numbers of reports of child abuse, many of which relate to historic abuse allegations. The research raises concerns that despite this many people still delay acting to potentially save a child.

Isabelle Trowler, Chief Social Worker for Children and Families, told The Independent: “One of the biggest barriers to reporting is that people fear being wrong and the consequences of that – potentially breaking up a family. We want to reassure people, that in reality, information is usually gathered from many sources, and a report will usually form one piece of a much larger picture. That said, a small piece of information could be the missing piece of the puzzle, so it can still be incredibly important.

“People from all parts of the local community can play a role in helping to protect children and young people from abuse and neglect. You don’t have to be absolutely certain about your suspicions - if you have a feeling that something’s not right, talk to the local children’s social care team who can look into it.”

It is estimated one in five girls and one in twenty boys will be a victim of child sexual abuse. Of these, approximately 70 per cent of children will be abused by someone who is well-known to them, most often a parent, sibling or family friend.

Anyone with concerns about the wellbeing and safety of a child is asked to contact the police or local authorities. You can visit for further information.

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