Skip to main content

The Foundations of Abuse: A thematic assessment of the risk of child sexual abuse by adults in institutions

The sexual exploitation and abuse of children is most likely when vulnerability meets power. Both vulnerability and power can take forms which are subtle, informal and – to a passive outside world – often barely visible.

Events of the last year have brought into focus an issue which has, in truth, been in our consciousness for much longer – that there is something about institutions that can amplify both vulnerability and power to a point where sexual abuse of children within them can become endemic. Institutions with children or other vulnerable people in their care, have special obligations to safeguard them. Where the risk increases, so do these obligations.

The aim of this assessment is not to deliver a verdict on any of the institutions which have come under close scrutiny since October 2012. To the contrary: recognising that such scrutiny may take years, that there are (regrettably) many other institutions that have been venues for abuse in the past, and that there are some common factors that can as easily be learned from them, the NCA CEOP command aims to deliver an authoritative assessment of how institutions can lay the foundations of abuse. More importantly perhaps, we make recommendations based on our assessment, that we believe could make institutions safer today.

We must not assume that all the lessons have been learned, that it could never happen now or here; protecting the most vulnerable from the worst abuse is always current, urgent and important.