Views & Reviews Medical Classics

Unofficial Secrets: Child Sexual Abuse: the Cleveland Case and Child Sexual Abuse: Whose Problem? Reflections from Cleveland

BMJ 2010; 341 doi: (Published 10 November 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c6262
  1. Charles Essex, consultant neurodevelopmental paediatrician, Gulson Hospital, Coventry
  1. charles.essex{at}

Mention Cleveland, and doctors of a certain generation will probably frown and ask, “Wasn’t that where paediatricians overdiagnosed child abuse?” Doctors with an interest in child protection, which should include all doctors but unfortunately doesn’t even include all paediatricians, will know that the vast majority of children in Cleveland who were taken into care in the summer of 1987 had probably been sexually abused.

So why the perception that the paediatricians got it wrong? They were not helped by a public inquiry and report chaired by Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, who later remarked, on whether the children were abused, “It was not my job to find out.” Fortunately the journalist Beatrix Campbell did try to find out. It …

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