A new report has been released detailing the findings of an independent inquiry into child sexual abuse across the UK. Whilst online/digital child abuse was not the primary focus of this report, in our technology-centred society, it is impossible for an inquiry such as this to not recognise its prevalence, significance and threat.
The report discusses the soaring rates of child sexual abuse images/videos, finding that “millions of child sexual abuse images can be accessed within just three ‘clicks’, many of which depict young children and babies”. The long-term trauma and harm faced by children in sexual abuse images/videos, as well as for their families, is reported to be ‘incalculable’, with much of it being associated with a fear of the images staying on the internet forever.
Whilst the inquiry did find that most internet sites and companies ‘prohibit or discourage’ children under 13 years from accessing their platforms, it repeatedly found evidence that their interventions did little to stop young children from accessing the content and services; calling the action taken by the tech industry to improve age restrictions to content “motivated by the desire to avoid reputational damage caused by adverse media reporting”.
Notably, the report identified the wider societal issue that “children’s disclosures were characterised by embarrassment, fear and disbelief”. The general public is unaware of the true scale and pervasiveness of child sexual abuse and has a lack of knowledge about the correct response to a child's disclosure.
At Breck Foundation, we encourage children to disclose to a trusted adult and offer adults clear advice on where to get urgent help for the child in need. We have found that most disclosures from children happen during or directly after our speakers have given a talk in a school.
Our talks help, encourage and support children to speak up and get help before it is too late.
Click here to read a summary of the ‘The Report of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse' - October 2022’