Police expect biggest increase in reports of sexual abuse since Jimmy Savile scandal
Police fear the school rape culture revelations could see the biggest increase in reports of sexual abuse since the Jimmy Savile scandal, as they expect thousands of victims to come forward and promise they will be believed.
A special national helpline is expected to be set up this week as allegations on the website hosting survivors’ testimony grows to more than 8,300.
Police believe the total allegations could exceed the 11,000 victims on the national database for Operation Hydrant, set up to record victims of sexual abuse.
Simon Bailey, the national police lead for child protection, said: “This could be the biggest explosion in sexual abuse since Jimmy Savile. It has the potential to be.”
Revelations about Savile in 2012 led to a flood of calls and referrals to police about sexual abuse, and scores of convictions.
A national helpline is expected to be operational this week to encourage victims to report their experiences, with allegations then referred to police in their area.
Amid controversy over how police treat sexual abuse survivors and investigate their allegations, Bailey vowed: “Every victim who comes forward will be believed, will be listened to and dealt with sensitively.”
Bailey said police did not know how many of those making allegations would come forward and want their alleged attackers pursued by the criminal justice system.
Some of those who are alleged to have committed crimes may well have left school and moved on. Police are concerned they may have continued to offend as they have got older.
Earlier on Monday Bailey said parents should report their own children to the police if they learned they might have perpetrated sexual assaults.
Bailey, who is also the chief constable of Norfolk police, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that some educational establishments were likely to have covered up instances to protect their reputations.
“It’s so important that, within schools, the culture is created where misogyny, sexual harassment and abuse are simply not tolerated and, if the culture changes in schools, then we’ll start to make some progress.
“If parents are aware that their son or daughter has been a victim of abuse, then please come forward and report the abuse.
Your son or daughter, their account will be believed and we will deal with it appropriately.
“If, as a parent, you are aware that your son has been responsible for a sexual assault, then I think you should again be taking your son to the police and saying: ‘Look, I’ve now become aware that this is what my son has done.'”
Bailey added that both parents and teachers should take a more prominent role in educating children that what is portrayed in pornography often does not resemble a healthy sexual relationship.
Addressing the thousands of anonymous accounts of sexual harassment, abuse and assault in UK schools that have emerged in recent months, Bailey said it was reasonable to assume more allegations would be made to police and that it would become clear some schools had been keeping quiet about cases for fear of tarnishing their reputations.
He referred to the campaign Everyone’s Invited, set up in June by Soma Sara, a survivor of sexual abuse, and whose site now hosts more than 8,300 such testimonies.
“Based upon the experience that we have seen over recent years – and I’ll use the example of the crisis that occurred within Football Association back in 2016, when a handful of victims had the courage and confidence to come forward and report their abuse, what followed thereafter was a huge number of footballers who then came forward and also disclosed.”
Bailey said the number of instances documented on the site was “growing exponentially” and that their weight meant it was “reasonable to predict that there is going to be a significant number of reports that are going to come into the [policing] system”.
The focus has been placed on several high-profile private schools recently but Sara, a UCL student, has said that risks minimising the issue.
She said: “When we narrow our focus on a school, a demographic, or as an individual, we risk making these cases seem like anomalies.
But this isn’t rare; it happens all the time.”
And Bailey said he expected allegations to come from all sectors of the education system.
Bailey told Today that, while he did not have evidence of specific instances, he thought it was highly likely some schools had covered up allegations.
“Again, we saw within the crisis in football that some clubs had simply not dealt with allegations and concerns about some of that, some of their staff.
“So I think it’s predictable and it’s a reasonable assumption that, in some cases, and hopefully it’s only just a few, schools will have made the decision just to deal with the allegations internally, rather than reporting, when actually [they] should have done.”
Scotland Yard has said it is reviewing the testimonies on Everyone’s Invited to establish whether any potential victims in London could be encouraged to report crimes, while a source at the Department for Education (DfE) has said schools will be urgently investigated and face tough sanctions if they fail to address concerns.