Child sexual abuse has been downplayed by councils and police in a bid to avoid being labeled ‘another Rochdale or Rotherham’, an inquest has found.
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) has published its findings on the sexual exploitation of children by organized networks.
IICSA concluded there were ‘significant failures’ in how gang sexual exploitation of children was addressed, with police and authorities potentially downplaying the extent of abuse for fear of negative publicity .
He said child victims were often blamed by the authorities for the hardships they suffered.
The report suggests this could be down to a determination to ensure they are not seen to be like Rochdale and Rotherham – two towns that have been blighted by recent child sexual exploitation revelations.
Professor Alexis Jay, who chaired the inquiry, said: “Network sexual exploitation of children is not a rare phenomenon confined to a small number of areas with high profile criminal cases.
“We have seen many failures on the part of local authorities and police forces in the way they have addressed this sexual abuse.
“There seemed to be a mistaken assumption that the sexual exploitation of children was on the decline, but it has become even more of a hidden and increasingly underestimated problem.”
The report, IICSA’s 18th since its inception, features the poignant testimonies of more than 30 young witnesses.
The report considered institutions in six local authority areas: St Helens, Tower Hamlets, Swansea, Durham, Bristol and Warwickshire.