Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales, Dame Vera Baird QC said:
“This week’s joint inspectorate report into the multi-agency response to child sexual abuse in the family is stark in highlighting the inadequacies in the current system.
“It is appalling that, because adults find it uncomfortable to talk about child sexual abuse within the family, vulnerable children are being left without the support they need.
“I am particularly pleased that this report has recognised that public agencies often, wrongly, expect a woman to police her own home and protect her family from a man who may also be abusing her. This is both cruel to victims and counter-productive as it can only make women more nervous to ask for help.
“It is deeply concerning that agencies are not applying the lessons learned from tackling child sexual exploitation to the problem of abuse within families. This should be common sense and, where there is good practice, this should be held up for others to follow whether this is in prevention, identifying children at risk or tackling perpetrators.
“The report also shows that police investigations of these crimes are inconsistent, poorly conducted and slow-moving so that children are left in danger even after the police are aware that they are being abused. This has to change as a matter of urgency.
“Time and again I hear that public agencies do not work effectively together to share information that would enable them identify victims and act to protect them from further harm. This report backs this up and shows the importance of taking a strong multi-agency approach. Professionals working in health, social care and policing should be given proper training to ensure that they feel confident in tackling abuse within the family environment and take a child-centred approach to any investigation.
“We all have a responsibility to face up to the reality of sexual abuse within the family and the harm it can do to children, so that we can take steps to address the problems in the current system and provide proper support for victims. We all have a duty to be able to recognise the signs of abuse in a child and help them get support.
“I hope that ministers and other leaders of public agencies will respond fully to this report and set out what they will do to address the shocking problems it raises.”