Protecting children from harm: a critical assessment of child sexual abuse in the family network in England and priorities for action

Document type
Longfield, Anne
Office of the Children's Commissioner
Date of publication
24 November 2015
Children and Young People
Social welfare
Material type

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Child sexual exploitation is now a priority for local and national agencies with child protection responsibilities, however, child sexual abuse which occurs within families has been largely absent from the national conversation.

Sexual abuse within a family has a particular impact on victims and the wider family. The violation of trust, and the barriers to accessing help pose particular challenges to policy-makers and practitioners.

In July 2014, the Children’s Commissioner initiated an Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse in the Family Environment.

There were four principal reasons for launching this Inquiry:

  • Abuse is often neither recognised nor addressed by the agencies responsible for child protection.
  • Most victims of sexual abuse are abused by a family member or someone known to them.
  • High profile cases have led to a series of policy and initiatives to safeguard children from sexual exploitation.
  • It is probable that the majority of victims of intra-familial child sexual abuse have not received help.

This Inquiry aims to understand this issue in greater detail, particularly its scale and nature in England.

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