Investigation of allegations of child sexual abuse – specific issues

Information in the section entitled “Investigations of Allegations of Child Abuse” applies here.

Consideration must be given to convening a child protection Initial Referral Discussion without delay. The purpose of the meeting is:

      • To gather and share relevant information
      • If a joint police social work investigation has not taken place, to decide if this is required and to plan the investigation
      • To consider plans to safeguard the child, and whether a child protection case conference is required.

The initial referral discussion will usually be attended by social work, police, relevant health and education staff, and any other staff from other organisations who know the family.

The child protection initial referral discussion should be minuted and the minute subsequently circulated to those in attendance.

The following procedures refer to the alleged sex offender as male. It is acknowledged that women can also sexually abuse children.

If it is agreed that a joint police/social work investigation should take place, efforts must be made to avoid alerting the alleged perpetrator of concerns at this stage to prevent the child possibly being intimidated and silenced.

Where it is suspected that both parents or carers have been involved in sexually abusing a child, consideration should be given to interviewing the child without parental permission.

Where the referral alleges that only one parent has abused the child, efforts should be made to seek permission from the non-abusing parent to interview the child.

Partners of alleged sex offenders are usually in a state of shock and may exhibit disbelief, forgetfulness and severe distress. This may be interpreted as taking the side of the perpetrator when in fact it may be an indication of trauma. Efforts must be made to offer support and form an alliance with the non- abusing parent at an early stage as the non-abusing parent’s influence in the situation is central to the future protection of the child. The non- abusing parent should be advised not to alert the alleged perpetrator or alert others who may contact him while the investigation is being conducted. A careful assessment as to whether the non-abusing parent can adhere to this as required.

It may be appropriate for the non-abusing parent to sit with the child during interview, but it has to be remembered that this could also inhibit the child who may not wish to upset his/her parent. If it is agreed that the non-abusing parent should be present, consideration should be given to him/her sitting behind the child while the interview is being conducted, thus avoiding the child seeing the non-abusing parent’s distress directly in the event of abuse being described. All of this requires the parent’s and child’s permission.

If a child alleges that he/she has been sexually abused, other children with whom the alleged sex offender has had contact, both within and outwith the household, may be interviewed with the parent’s and child’s permission.

Interviews should not be conducted by the same staff, where possible, to ensure neutrality.