"they forgot about the person that was being hurt here.”
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has published new research which has found that there are barriers in ethnic child sex abuse reporting.
Working with the Race Equality Foundation, the report analyses the views and experiences of over 80 individuals across a range of ethnic minority communities, including victims and survivors.
It looks at three key areas: barriers to disclosure, experiences of institutions and support for victims and survivors.
The report found that racism, sometimes in the form of cultural stereotypes can lead to failures on the part of institutions in identifying and responding to child sex abuse.
A female focus group participant said:
“The social worker was white, okay, and she said to me, ‘This is not sexual abuse. This is your culture’. Even today, I’m so traumatised by this.”
Participants explained how such stereotypes can act as a barrier to reporting abuse, creating mistrust, which also underpinned issues around disclosure and reporting.
They revealed a lack of diversity within institutions and how this can exacerbate a sense of difference for people from an ethnic minority background.
A female focus group participant said:
“I just wish social services just barged in and took me into care, and took me and my siblings into care… but they were so intent on not coming across racist or coming across culturally insensitive that they forgot about the person that was being hurt here.”
The report highlights the various challenges victims and survivors from ethnic minority backgrounds face when reporting child sexual abuse.
This includes denial, concerns over damage to reputation, a fear of being ousted from the community, or simply having no one to report to.
A male focus group member said: “The institutions weren’t there, the people that you could speak to weren’t there, and I had to do all of this work my own self.”
According to the report, shame and stigma can contribute to silence within some communities.
Many participants felt they would have more to lose than gain if they reported child sex abuse, given the barriers ethnic minority people may already face.
A female participant said: “I was thinking that there’s a lot of pressure on the survivor not to speak, by their families, of bringing shame to the family and that shame to the community.
“So it can be your immediate family; your extended family, but even your community.
“And there’s also a sense of, white people see us as bad and now you’re showing them how bad you are.”
Some survivors said they felt raw and damaged as a result of the abuse, and described how they battled with feeling robbed physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Several participants reported having to deal with the impact of being cut off from their families or communities following disclosure, making other forms of support more crucial.
Whilst a few participants did describe a positive experience of support, this wasn’t the case for the majority. Survivors said they didn’t know where to turn, or services offering support were just not there.
Sabah Kaiser, Ambassador to the Inquiry said:
“As a victim and survivor who grew up as part of a South Asian family, I feel passionately about ensuring the voices of survivors from ethnic minority communities are heard.
“This report highlights the multitude of specific cultural barriers so many survivors face in disclosing child sexual abuse; if we are to truly overcome these barriers, it’s crucial that we listen to and recognise the uniqueness of these experiences. Only then can we learn from them.”
Holly Rodger, Principal Researcher at the Inquiry said:
“In this report, victims and survivors describe the impact of cultural stereotypes and racism on how child sexual abuse is understood, identified, disclosed and responded to across ethnic minority communities.
“Participants’ feelings of being ‘othered’ by professionals and institutions was a significant obstacle to reporting abuse, as were feelings of shame, stigma and a fear of not being believed.
“The importance of education, greater awareness and listening to the voices of survivors from ethnic minority backgrounds is clear.”
Jabeer Butt, Chief Executive of the Race Equality Foundation said:
“Those that took part in this research, including men from ethnic minority communities, conveyed powerful messages about their views and experiences of child sexual abuse within their own communities, describing the racial and cultural factors that acted as barriers to disclosure and their ability to access the right support from the relevant institutions.
“Whilst evidence suggests that this issue is being more openly discussed, it’s important that we continue to challenge the stereotypes and take steps to ensure that children from all communities are better protected from child sexual abuse.”