Guest Blog: Reporting on child abuse

The first blog in a series highlighting external resources for journalists is from Kath Stipala, Head of Public Affairs at The National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC). NAPAC is a national charity which offers support to adult survivors of all types of childhood abuse, including physical, sexual and emotional abuse and neglect.

The ONS National Crime Survey gives an indication of just how many people in our country suffered abuse in childhood. We know from the huge number of cases being heard at the IICSA child abuse inquiry that many perpetrators continued abusing children for decades. 

Positive media reporting has led to improved awareness about how crimes against children happen, prompting thousands of survivors to reach out for support. Responsible, considered reporting can reduce the stigma facing survivors of child abuse, assist police investigations and can bring about important discussions which will help to make society safer for children today and in the future. 

People who abuse children come from all walks of life. Most are family members or in a position of trust, with the perpetrator having built a relationship with the child prior to offending. Media coverage often focuses on celebrities or abuse in institutional settings, but the majority of people are abused by a relative or somebody known to them. 

Many people who sexually abuse children are repeat offenders and media coverage can prompt other survivors to come forward which can help to secure a conviction. Inevitably there will be more media interest when an alleged suspect is someone well-known or high-status in society. This makes responsible reporting even more critical.  

Reporting on non-recent child abuse can be challenging for journalists as there are many sensitivities involved. To help with this, we have produced some guidance for the media with input from IPSO, OFCOM and the BBC editorial guidelines team to help when reporting on child abuse. 

The guidelines give advice about language and also have tips about talking with survivors about their experiences. We would also ask that where appropriate, journalists consider including details of NAPAC’s free telephone support line for adult survivors of child abuse (Support Line 0808 801 0331) or details of our website. 

Society is only just beginning to recognise the impacts of trauma in childhood and how this affects people in adulthood. Good media reporting has an important role to play in this, ultimately making our society safer for children. 

You can view the guidance, and other external resources for journalists here. 


About IPSO’s external resources for journalists 

IPSO’s external resources page contains guidance from a range organisations that offer advice for journalists along with numbers of press offices, which may be useful. Journalists are not obliged to follow these guidelines, which are separate to the Editors’ Code, but may find them helpful when reporting on sensitive and challenging issues. 

It is not an exhaustive list and we hope the page will grow organically as we become aware of new or other resources which may be of interest to journalists. If you are an organisation, and would like information to be featured on this page, please contact Standards Officer Rosemary Douce at 


Originally published 19 July 2019.