WillisPalmer is continuing to provide our expert social work and psychological services during lockdown. We are utilising technology alongside safe working practices in line with government guidance to enable us to continue supporting vulnerable children and families.

Call 01206 878178 to discuss your requirements.
Make an Enquiry
Contact Us

Healthcare practitioners used position to abuse children, inquiry finds

Healthcare practitioners abused their positions of trust and authority to sexually abuse children under the guise of medical procedures, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has found.

Research into child sexual abuse in healthcare contexts based on the accounts of 109 victims and survivors who came forward to the Truth Project found sexual abuse occurred across a variety of settings including hospitals, psychiatric institutions and GP surgeries.

Julienne Zammit, Senior Researcher at the Inquiry said: “In this report, victims and survivors describe how perpetrators in healthcare contexts would exploit their routine access to children to commit sexual abuse, which often took place under the guise of medical procedures. Participants feared questioning the power and trust held by healthcare professionals.

“It’s clear that not being believed was a significant barrier to children reporting sexual abuse, as were feelings of self-blame, embarrassment and a fear of speaking out against authority,” she added.

The report analyses experiences of abuse across a wide range of healthcare settings from the 1960s to the 2000s and provides an insight into the role of healthcare in victims and survivors’ lives, revealing that for many participants, their healthcare needs related to the physical, psychological and sexual abuse they suffered at home.

Victims and survivors reported attending health institutions seeking treatment, care and recovery, but instead were subjected to sexual abuse by professionals in violation of their duty to protect their patients.

Perpetrators were typically male GPs or healthcare practitioners who had routine ‘clinical’ access to children, meaning that their behaviour was not questioned by other staff, parents or children, even when they recommended procedures that were not appropriate or necessary.

Many victims and survivors described how the sexual abuse took place under the cover of clinical ‘examinations’, which in some cases involved the use of medication or medical instruments.

The report identifies certain factors which enabled the sexual abuse to take place, including:

- Physical isolation in private consultation rooms

- The victim’s lack of knowledge about medical procedures

- The position of trust and authority held by healthcare professionals, allowing them to instruct patients without being questioned.

Victims and survivors outlined the effects of the sexual abuse:

- The majority described a significant impact on their mental health, such as anxiety and depression

- Others talked about a fear of healthcare professionals, and psychological and emotional distress.

- Over 20 percent of participants experienced a direct impact such as pregnancy or a physical injury.

Many participants described barriers preventing them from speaking out, including:

- Having no-one to tell

- Fear of questioning authority

- Feelings of guilt and shame.

Where victims and survivors did disclose abuse, they were often ignored, disbelieved or discredited, and dismissed by healthcare professionals as sick or ‘crazy’.

One participant concluded: “I just see [the perpetrator’s] fingerprints on everything...I look at my life and I just see his fingerprints.”

The Inquiry’s Truth Project is closing in 2021, but for now it is still open for survivors of child sexual abuse to share their experiences in writing, over the phone, by video call or in person. Visit www.truthproject.org.uk for more information or email share@iicsa.org.uk.

Child sexual abuse in healthcare contexts

Make an enquiry

A multi-disciplinary organisation providing independent, high quality social work and psychological services. Contact us with your requirements and speak to a member of our team who will help you today.
Make an Enquiry

Knowledge & Resources

Keep abreast of the latest news in the children's services sector.

CQC rates Gender Identity Services at Tavistock and Portman inadequate


The Gender Identity Development Services at Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust’s London and Leeds clinics have been rated inadequate by The Care Commission and told to improve their services and waiting times significantly.

Inspectors carried out an announced, focused inspection at the trust in October and November due to concerns raised by healthcare professionals and [...]

Read Full Story

Attendance rates during lockdown are placing schools under ‘tremendous pressure’


Schools have been placed under ‘tremendous pressure’ as a result of attendance rates being much higher in the current national lockdown than in the first lockdown in March 2020.

Department for Education statistics reveal that:

- Attendance rates were 21% in state-funded primary schools on 13 January in comparison to 4% between March and May 2020.

- In [...]

Read Full Story

Unidentified child abuse is pervasive - it affects every aspect of your life


Clare Jerrom talks to Dr Anna Preston about leaving the NHS after 16 years, joining WillisPalmer as a Consultant Clinical Psychologist, taking a lead on the quality assurance of all psychological reports and why it is imperative that vulnerable children experiencing neglect or abuse are identified immediately and sign-posted for help.

When Dr Anna Preston [...]

Read Full Story
Children First is an online resource for professionals working with children presented by WillisPalmer, providing you with the latest news, features and interviews.
Subscribe Today
Delivering a diverse, reliable range of services to children and their families across the UK
D1, Parkside, Knowledge Gateway, Nesfield Road, Colchester, Essex CO4 3ZL
Contact Us

A Mackman Group collaboration - market research by Mackman Research | website design by Mackman

closechevron-downbars linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram