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Thursday, 31 August, 2000, 12:53 GMT 13:53 UK
Child abuse risk for sports clubs
Children
Most abused children know their attackers
Half of all abused children know their abuser through sports or leisure groups such as swimming clubs, a study has found.

Research carried out by Huddersfield University suggests that not only do most victims of child abuse know their abusers, but that many voluntary groups cover it up to protect the club's reputation.

The study found that 52% of children were sexually abused in community-based organisations.

These included sports and voluntary groups and also private tuition classes.

Almost one in 10 cases of abuse were carried out by private music tutors, according to the study.


There is a small minority of people working with children who do seek to abuse children

Bernard Gallagher, Huddersfield University
A third of children were abused in foster homes and one in eight were abused while living in residential institutions.

Bernard Gallagher, from the University of Huddersfield, said he was surprised by the findings.

"The study shows that most abuse is not in residential institutions but is in fact in the community.

"In all these cases, the abusers were known to the children," he told BBC News Online.

He said the government needed to introduce "a raft of measures" to protect children.

"For the number of years I have been studying child protection and child abuse cases I identified, for example, a considerable reluctance on the part of people working with children to actually report cases when they come across them.

"Reporting is an issue that has to be addressed.

Sacrifice

He added: "Sometimes, sad to say, they don't want to bring their organisation into disrepute and they are prepared to sacrifice children as a result."

Mr Huddersfield said that while most people involved in voluntary groups have "the best of intentions" regulations were needed to ensure children were protected from abusers.

"I think obviously the vast majority of people who work with children, be it in the voluntary, public or private sectors, have the best of intentions but obviously there is a small minority of people working with children who do seek to abuse children," he said.

Mr Huddersfield said strict policies should be introduced in clubs across the UK.

"I'm calling for more proactive measures, to implement the same stringent measures in all organisations for children in order to prevent abuse in the first place."

Cost

But Colin Groves, national director of Clubs for Young People, said introducing checks would cost money - money most clubs do not have.

"There is cost involved in all of this. We get very little help from either central or local government."

He added: "For instance, to bring in the checks that the Criminal Records Bureau will virtually dictate that we will have to do will cost us in the region of 0.25m."

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Groves said that introducing too many rules and checks on adults working in clubs could put the whole voluntary sector in jeopardy.

"If you trespass too much on the goodwill of volunteers they will be deterred from volunteering in the first place or in fact will leave.

Campaign

Officials at South Lanarkshire Council in Scotland are launching a campaign to highlight child abuse.

The campaign, which is supported by Childline and other organisations, will include publication of a leaflet informing parents on how to protect children from abusers.

The support group Children 1st said it was important that children felt they were able to talk about abuse.

"Most sexual abuse of children is done in secret by an adult who tries to make sure that it remains a secret.

"We have to get the message across to children that it is all right to talk about and we also have to get the message through to adults that they must listen."

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See also:

18 Aug 00 | Northern Ireland
Shock over child abuser's parole
06 Aug 00 | UK
The story of Megan's Law
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