All of us who work with and campaign against child sexual abuse will be profoundly concerned by the brutal sexual murder and disgusting defilement of 16-year-old Amber Gibson. All of us, I suspect, believe it could have been prevented.

South Lanarkshire Council, under whose care she had been since the age of three, has commissioned an independent review of the circumstances of her death. It is due to report soon. But it will be worth almost nothing unless it also examines the cumulative circumstances over many years.

What was already known, and when, about her brother’s sexual abuse or his dangerousness? Not just by social work but by education, police and health? What records exist, including those in all her previous schools and her young person’s unit? At the end could she have been prevented from, or accompanied to, the meeting with her brother which had so worried the unit?

Read more: Brother Connor Gibson found guilty of murder of Amber

When were her reactive behaviours and mental distress identified as those common in sexually abused young people? Why was she moved to the unit from foster care at age 14? Why was she not protected from a previous rape while at the unit?

This terrible conclusion to one girl’s life is not just about any failings in protection by one authority or service. Nor do the lessons apply to just one authority. There are systemic failures to address sexual abuse and protect young victims properly. Approaches need radically to change.

While we have made some progress in preventing sexual abuse - for instance in better monitoring those who look after children - progress in identifying children who are already being abused has, I believe, barely improved in 30 years. In some ways it is in retreat.

Disclosures in most schools and youth settings remain tiny, compared even to conservative known estimates of child sexual abuse (CSA). Most children find it really hard to tell, and their range of fears about doing so have never been addressed. There is widespread personal nervousness and distaste about confronting it even in settings for the most distressed or damaged young people. The backlash has made them fear asking young people directly, no matter what the signs and symptoms.

There is little detailed or confidence-building training for staff, especially in key areas like schools or in the children’s hearing system, where so many abused young people present. And if children’s hearings are not identifying danger, how can the young people possibly be kept safe?

Too often disbelief remains of “delinquent” teenage girls’ and boys’ accounts; a still-hostile criminal justice system is a huge barrier, while young people’s residential units still fail to reduce their great vulnerability to child sexual exploiters by resolving conflict between protection, and young people’s demand to go out when they please. Meanwhile sexual abuse concerns, as a percentage of all concerns brought to child protection registrations and case conferences, have continued to fall over two decades to very low figures, well below ten per cent.

How can that be?

Read more: Council probe into Amber Gibson's care is underway

Amber is owed a full (and openly available) investigation of this shocking culmination to her dangerous life. But many other sexually abused young people continue to die - through suicide, violence, substance use, ill health – or to suffer permanently blighted lives. This death should also spur a swift review of improvements by the Scottish Government, drawing on the expertise and experience of survivors and others, including staff already doing excellent pioneering work with child sexual abuse and exploitation.

Amongst other reforms, we need imaginative ways to help young people disclose sexual abuse, including through confidential reporting and third-party reporting; to identify sexual abuse early and increase confidence-building training, by supporting anxious staff to ask without fear; by having really skilled people in abuse trauma accessible to all settings where the most vulnerable children are based; by creating protective local communities; and by moving to strong, perpetrator-focused strategies of prevention.

Sarah Nelson OBE is a research specialist on sexual abuse and its impacts throughout life, and is research associate at CRFR, University of Edinburgh