Child sex abuse victims have been accused of lying by police and ignored by mental health services, leading to suicide attempts, an official inquiry has found.
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) spoke to 56 victims and survivors of child sexual abuse between the ages of 11 and 21, and 77 specialist child sexual abuse support workers.
The findings, published in a report called Engagement with Children and Young People, show children claimed police accused them of lying when they tried to report abuse.
The inquiry found "several" young victims reporting that the NHS-run Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) "will only see children if they are suicidal".
The "overwhelming majority" of young victims shared negative experiences of their involvement with CAMHS. One told researchers: "I was thinking about cutting myself or jumping out of a window to get any help."
A support worker said: "It depends on the agency… you refer a child for mental health support but it is not offered because of high thresholds for eligibility."
Victims feeling ‘disempowered’
Some young victims and survivors told the inquiry that police had managed their privacy and confidentiality concerns poorly, which in some cases led to retaliation from people associated with the abuser.
They said "the system" took over after they disclosed abuse, making them feel disempowered and deterring them from sharing information again.
One told researchers: "Don’t say you have a choice when you don’t have a choice. I told the police everything and they said we need to take this further. I said I am not ready, but they said it was too serious. After that I was just waiting and waiting. It took months. I didn’t know what was going on."
Another said: "Now I regret having gone to the police. If I had to give advice to someone, I would say get help but don’t report."
The 43-page report found not enough was being done within schools to recognise and respond to child sexual abuse and exploitation, and that children believed social media companies and tech giants should do more to protect them.
The report forms part of the IICSA’s ongoing work examining how organisations are failing to protect children from sexual abuse. The inquiry, chaired by Prof Alexis Jay OBE, is an independent statutory inquiry and covers England and Wales.
According to a recent paper published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, about seven per cent of children have attempted suicide by the age of 17, and almost one in four have self-harmed within the past year.