The European Day on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse
18 November 2022 marks the European Day on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse. The day is celebrated every year across Europe with focus on a specific topic related to the protection of children. This year’s theme is child-friendly justice.
2022 has been a very important year for addressing child abuse in the UK. Several high-profile reports have been prepared which looked into various aspects of institutional responses to child abuse in the country.
In October 2022, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) delivered its final report. IICSA looked at the extent to which various institutions failed in their responsibilities to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation, including failures in police investigations of historic abuse allegations. The Chair of the Inquiry, Professor Alexis Jay, called the scale of the problem in England and Wales “horrific and deeply disturbing” and she described it as an “epidemic that leaves thousands of victims in its poisonous wake”.
Also in October 2022, the review of allegations of abuse within the Church of England identified a large number of new cases. The review looked back into 75,000 historic files, some dating back to 1940s. It found 383 new cases of abuse, which had not been dealt with previously despite being reported. In 168 of those cases, the victims were children at the time of the abuse and 149 individuals were vulnerable adults. The majority of the alleged perpetrators (242) were clergy, while 53 were Church officers and 41 were volunteers, who had access to children.
In June 2022, an independent inquiry delivered its damning report into the responses of Oldham Council and Greater Manchester Police to the allegations of child sex abuse. The report is an emblematic example of the failure to protect children and young adults in the UK. The report identified “significant missed opportunities” by Greater Manchester Police to protect at least one survivor, who was just 12 years old when she was first abused. Both the local social services and the police were criticised for “very poor” case work in ten sample cases reviewed by the inquiry.
This year the European Day on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse focuses on child-friendly multidisciplinary and interagency responses to child sexual abuse. This approach is based on the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children Against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (Lanzarote Convention), which the United Kingdom has ratified.
The blueprint for this child-friendly multidisciplinary approach was developed by member states of the Council of Europe and it is called the “Barnahus model”, which in Icelandic means “children’s house”. The approach aims to bring together all relevant support and protection services under one roof in order to avoid re-victimisation of the child during investigation and court proceedings. The aim of this model is to coordinate parallel criminal and child welfare investigations and help obtain admissible evidence for judicial proceedings by eliciting the child’s disclosure. Under the model, the child victims and witnesses of violence also receive support and assistance, including medical evaluation and treatment, in a safe environment.
What is clear from the various reports published this year by several independent UK inquires is that more needs to be done to fully address the needs of children who have been victims of sexual abuse. The blueprint developed by the Barnhus model could be a good starting point in addressing many of the shortcomings identified in the institutional responses to child sexual abuse in the UK.
One of the key recommendations of the Barnhus model is to ensure that psychological support and short and long term therapeutic services are available to the survivors.
At Bolt Burdon Kemp we recognise the importance of counselling support to the survivors of abuse. This is why we decided to provide our abuse claims clients with access to our private therapy fund. The fund pays up to £2,500 for each client who has been recommended specialist treatment by a consultant psychiatrist to ensure that abuse survivors are adequately supported while they seek justice for what happened to them.
If you or anyone you know has been has been abused please feel free to contact our specialist abuse claims team for assistance.