Truth Project Thematic Report - Child Sexual Abuse in Custodial Institutions


Date of publication:  23 Apr 2020 Author:  Dr Andrea Darling; Beth Mooney; Dr Sophia King; Rachel Hurcombe; Claire Soares; Grace Ablett; Dr Verena Brähler; IICSA Research Team Publisher:  The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) Publication type:  Report / Study / Data

The research of the New Truth Project on child sexual abuse in custodial institutions revealed that children who had been exposed to such inhuman treatment faced extreme violence.

Child sexual abuse survivors from the 1950s–2010s shared their experience with the Inquiry's Truth Project. The key research findings include:

  • Methods of punishments were being kicked, beaten, caned, having one's testicles squeezed and being slapped around the head
  • Victims were helpless and unable to escape the abuse
  • Perpetrators did not plead guilty and because of that, children did not get as much attention and protection as they should have
  • The torture affected the children later in life with the development of their mental health, in their social and sexual relationships, and presented hardships during education and while seeking employment. 

The victims reported cases when they were abused by multiple perpetrators, such as members of correctional, welfare, and support staff, or by other children in custody. They did not, however, expect justice and recognition, since the abuse, in some cases, occured decades ago. Yet, it was concluded that the punitive culture did not let children speak out in these cases, but made them step back instead. In the end, a recommendation was made to the Ministry of Justice and the Department for Education to prohibit pain compliance techniques and to share policy responsibility for children in custodial institutions.

Dr Sophia King, the principal researcher, says that the research gives insight into what really happens to children behind closed doors. Also, based on this knowledge, we have to make sure that no child will ever have to experience such a nightmare again. Nujoji Calvocoressi, a member of the Inquiry’s Victims and Survivors Consultative Panel, says: 'Survivors of child sexual abuse may feel excluded from society, but they are not excluded from this Inquiry. These valuable contributions and suggestions made at the Truth Project will support the Inquiry’s final recommendations.'

The report is based on an analysis of 3,701 people who shared their experience with the Truth Project between June 2016 and January 2020. Out of 3,701 people, 47 (1.3 percent) were abused in some kind of a custodial institution.

The report includes the following chapters:

  • Introduction
  • Sample and methods
  • Custodial institutions
  • Background of children sexually abused in custodial institutions
  • Context and nature of abuse
  • Institutional context and the nature of the abuse
  • Experiences of disclosure and responses by institutions
  • Impact of the child sexual abuse, recovery experiences and support
  • Experiences of recovery and support
  • Summary of key findings
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