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Oxfam sex abuse scandal widens following reports of abuse in charity shops

View profile for Malcolm Underhill
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The Oxfam sex abuse scandal has taken a new turn following reports that teenage volunteers in the charity’s UK shops have been abused.

The charity's former head of safeguarding, Helen Evans, revealed that staff working in Oxfam’s charity shops had been accused of rape and sexual abuse against teenage volunteers, including some as young as 14. Ms Evans accused Oxfam bosses of ignoring her evidence and calls for more resources, ultimately leading her to quit her role in despair.

It has been suggested that 123 cases of alleged sex harassment took place over a period of 9 years, based on figures seen by The Daily Mail. Of these, 52 incidents were recorded in 2016/17, suggesting that the problem has been on going. It also emerged that Oxfam had failed to carry out criminal record checks on the 23,000 volunteers working across its 650 shops in the UK.

Evans also revealed that a confidential survey carried out in 2014 found that more than 1 in 10 staff across Oxfam programmes in three different countries either reported, witnessed or experienced sexual assault. However, Evans claims the charity’s leadership were not supportive when she attempted to raise the issues with them.

Eventually, Evans quit her role at Oxfam and went to the Charity Commission to report her concerns. However, she claims the regulator did not return her calls and it did not launch an inquiry until the end of 2017 – two years after she first approached them.

A Charity Commission spokesperson said: “We took the concerns Miss Evans raised very seriously and engaged with Oxfam on a formal regulatory basis to address them.”

Oxfam chief Mark Goldring said: “I certainly apologise for not acting fast enough” adding “Many of the incidents in shops were actually perpetrated by members of the public not by Oxfam staff but it’s absolutely important that we report them and we take them seriously.”

"Oxfam says it had taken steps to improve safety in its shops, including checking all new managers, which was extended in 2015 to cover all previously serving managers and has now been further extended to include all volunteers who are in a supervising position."

This fresh scandal comes in the wake of allegations that Oxfam staff were involved in sexual abuse and forced prostitution in several countries, including during aid work carried out in the aftermath of the Darfur genocide and following the catastrophic 2010 Haiti earthquake.

It has recently come to light that the UK government knew about the sexual abuse scandal involving 300 people in the aid sector. The accusations of abuse by Oxfam workers abroad include reports of a woman being coerced to have sex by an aid worker and another case where a woman had been coerced in exchange for aid.

The revelations about sexual abuse in Oxfam seem to reflect a growing trend for people to be more willing to come forward about their experiences of sexual abuse. With victims from children’s homes, the theatre industry, schools and many more organisations starting to see their abusers brought to trial, it may be that more victims of abuse will feel confident to come forward.

Contact our sexual abuse lawyers today

If you have experienced sexual abuse under any circumstances, IBB Claims’ expert sexual abuse lawyers can offer the support and guidance you need. We offer a sensitive and empathetic but practical approach, helping you to achieve justice.

Ring 0333 123 9099 today, for a free and confidential conversation. Please be assured, that we will treat the issue sensitively and not ask you any detail about the abuse.  We only need to have a general indication of what happened to you, to advise if we can assist.

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