Landmark comms campaign could help child sexual abuse survivors share experiences

A landmark comms campaign around child sexual abuse could help "expose past failures" made by public bodies and tackle a cover-up culture in the future.

The IICS's The Truth Project: Will encourage victims and survivors of child abuse to share their experiences (pic credit: Nixki/Thinkstock)
The IICS's The Truth Project: Will encourage victims and survivors of child abuse to share their experiences (pic credit: Nixki/Thinkstock)
Investigating the type of widespread abuse in public institutions revealed after the Jimmy Savile scandal is the driver behind the campaign, known as The Truth Project.

Run by the statutory Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), the new comms campaign aims to bring the project into the spotlight and encourage people to share their experiences.

"We want to reach the greatest number of people to publicise the important work of the inquiry, which is to expose past failures and help make children safer in the future," said Debbie Kirby, head of comms at IICSA.

The inquiry’s scope is to investigate institutions including the BBC, the police, local authorities, schools, hospitals, children’s homes and other public and private bodies.

It was initially launched by then-Home Secretary Theresa May in 2014 but relaunched as a statutory inquiry with increased powers in 2015 after objections about its original independence.

A major part of the work is the inquiry’s The Truth Project – which is a conduit for survivors and victims of child sexual abuse to share their experiences in a safe and confidential way.

To date, almost 500 face-to-face sessions have been held with victims and survivors since June 2016 as part of The Truth Project, with more than 180 written statements submitted, but IICSA is determined to expand its reach.

IICSA’s comms goals are around awareness and participation, with the aim of creating an environment where sharing historic childhood sexual abuse is encouraged.

We want to reach the greatest number of people to publicise the important work of the inquiry, which is to expose past failures and help make children safer in the future

Debbie Kirby, head of comms, IICSA


Its Truth Project website is set to be overhauled, while social media will also be used as a comms channel.
IICSA wants to increase participation among victims and survivors by building trust in The Truth Project brand and the work of the inquiry. 

IICSA also wishes to raise awareness of The Truth Project among the general public, especially those who know victims and survivors and may be influential in their decision to participate.

A longer-term aim is to change attitudes towards talking about and reporting child sexual abuse, by raising the profile of the inquiry and helping to remove stigma.

In the first year, IICSA plans to establish regional Truth Project sessions across the North West, North East, South West, Wales, London and the South East, and encourage 2,250 victims and survivors to come forward in 2017/18.

Pop up Truth sessions in cities including Nottingham, Newcastle and London have already been held this year and comms activity will support future pop-up events.

A £120,000 contract to carry out the comms work for an initial two-year period until September 2019 has been signed with the agency Bray Leino, with the possibility of a one-year extension.

"The inquiry is now working with Bray Leino to ensure our communications channels are as effective as possible," added Kirby.

IICSA is planning a national advertising campaign, to launch in January 2018, followed by a regional rollout in the spring, alongside its comms activity.

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