An enormous, seven-year inquiry into child abuse in England and Wales has reported ‘deeply disturbing’ findings.
Set up in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) was started in 2015 and cost £186m.
The BBC reports that the ‘nature and scale’ of abuse is ‘horrific and deeply disturbing’ with children being ‘threatened, beaten and humiliated’.
Prof Alexis Jay, the public inquiry’s chairwoman, described the widespread abuse as an ‘epidemic that leaves thousands of victims in its poisonous wake’.
Then Home Secretary Theresa May set up the IICSA after hundreds of people came forward following Savile’s death in 2011 to say he’d abused them as children.
The IICSA investigated historical allegations of child abuse dating back to the 1950s, while also looking into claims that authorities, such as the police, failed to properly handle allegations.
Aside from the 7,000 testimonies, 725 people gave evidence over 325 days of public hearings, with the hearings contributing to 15 investigations and ‘dozens’ of reports.
Prof Jay said: “We heard time and time again how allegations of abuse were ignored, victims were blamed and institutions prioritised their reputations over the protection of children.”
She added: "We cannot simply file it away and consider it a historical aberration when so much of what we learned suggests it is an ever growing problem exacerbated by current and future threat of the internet."
May insisted to the BBC that when she set up the inquiry, she had ‘no idea’ of the scale of abuse and was ‘horrified’ as it became ‘increasingly clear’.
She said: "The sad thing is very often children were raising this. Children were saying that this was happening to them and we weren't listening.”
The IICSA report said: “The deviousness and cruelty of perpetrators was limitless,” and that 'Institutions prioritised their personal and institutional reputations above the welfare of those they were duty bound to protect'.
"Blame was frequently assigned to the victims who were treated as if they were unworthy of protection."
According to the BBC, some institutions didn’t even respond to the inquiry's investigations and others just offered up ‘insincere apologies and inadequate provision of support and counselling’.
However, the broadcaster also pointed out that the inquiry’s been criticised for focusing ‘too much on past events’, but IICSA’s report did note that online abuse is on the rise and modern organisations have ‘many lessons to learn’.
"Child protection must be given a much greater priority in public life," the report concluded.
If you’ve been affected by any of these issues and want to speak to someone in confidence regarding the welfare of a child, contact the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000, 8am–10pm Monday to Friday, 9am–6pm weekends. If you are a child seeking advice and support, call Childline for free on 0800 1111