From April 2012 to March 2014, around 50,000 cases of child sex abuse were reported to the police. However, a recent study by the Children’s Commissioner for England suggests that the number of children abused in that period is actually around 450,000.
Key findings of the study were as follows:
• 75% of child sex abuse victims were female
• Two thirds of child sex abuse took place within or close to the family environment
• The age at which child sexual abuse is most likely to occur is just 9 years
• Not recognising what has happened to them, a large number of victims do not speak out about their abuse until their teenage years or later
• Even once a child has confided in someone, it is unlikely that the abuse will stop
In recent years there has been a major focus on child sex abuse occurring within institutions or by groups of offenders. However, the report has highlighted the fact that the majority of abuse takes place within families or trusted circles. Children’s commissioner Anne Longfield said:
“We must now wake up to and urgently address the most common form of child sexual abuse – that which takes place behind the front door within families or their trusted circles.
“The children’s commissioner has called for urgent action from government and more training to help teachers, social services, police and other professionals identify abuse early on.
“There are always signs. Children can become withdrawn or show overly sexualised behaviour. If you know the child it will be obvious to see changes in their behaviour.”
Most Detailed Analysis Yet
The Children’s Commissioner’s report scrutinised information from a variety of sources, including surveys from over 750 survivors of child abuse, as well as police and local councils. The study also examined a recent study of child mistreatment that found 11.3% of young adults (18-24) had suffered sexual abuse as a child.
The report is said to be the most detailed analysis of child sex abuse in England to date.
Simon Bailey, Norfolk Chief Constable, is responsible for police child protection and abuse investigations throughout the country. He said of the report:
“The numbers are staggering [but] I’m not that surprised.
“I’ve regularly talked about the level of child abuse reported to police as being the tip of the iceberg.”
Chief Constable Bailey also went on to admit that although police had made significant improvements in dealing with child abuse reports, there was still work to do.
“Jimmy Savile in 2012 was a watershed moment, for the police service in particular. This now has to be a watershed moment for all agencies involved in child protection.
“We have to fundamentally rethink how we go about stopping abuse of this nature happening on the horrific scale the commission has identified.”
Call for Government to Take Action
The report has called for a number of serious actions to be taken by government to prevent child abuse, including:
• To train teachers to identify any signs or symptoms of abuse, along with actions to be taken afterwards
• Compulsory lessons for children from the age of five, to be taught about healthy and safe relationships
• To teach children to speak to an appropriate adult if they have any concerns relating to abuse
• Increasing the responsibilities of those individuals working with children
• To offer support to children from the moment they disclose abuse
• To have an appropriate intermediary such as a child psychologist to be present during evidence interviews with children
• To ensure that all police forces make a record of all child sexual abuse related offences
The recommendations laid out in the report would be ‘carefully considered’, the Department for Education has said.
“[This government] set up the first ever cross-government child protection taskforce to overhaul the way police, schools, social services and others work together in tackling this abhorrent crime.
“We have also invested an extra £100m to support vulnerable children and we are providing £7m for services supporting child abuse survivors.”
The burden of disclosing abuse must be not be something that children should have to endure, according to Roy Perry of the Local Government Association. However, he has stressed that ‘councils cannot do this alone. We need support from a million eyes and ears amongst the public.’
Children’s Commissioners in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales stated that they had no equivalent figures on child abuse.
Sexual Abuse – Expert Advice
Hampson Hughes Solicitors specialises in directing sexual abuse claims in a considerate and compassionate manner. Our Abuse & Criminal Injuries Department is headed by Greg Neill – Greg is a member of the Association of Child Abuse Lawyers (ACAL).
For an open and friendly conversation about your situation, and to find out how we can assist you relevant to your individual experience, call 0800 888 6 888 or email [email protected]
Source: BBC News