‘The crisis is not going away’ - shocking rise in child sex offences
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A growing number of children are falling victim to sexual predators, according to latest figures - and lockdown has put young people at even greater risk.
Police data shows the number of children being sexually abused in Suffolk has risen from 444 in 2014/15 to 1,156 last year - a rise of 160%.
In data published today, the NSPCC also say the number of Childline counselling sessions for youngsters saying they had been abused by family members had risen during lockdown.
The charity, which campaigns and works in child protection, said police forces in the East of England recorded an average of 23 child sexual offences a day last year with a toal of 8,579 recorded offences including rape, online grooming and sexual assault against children.
This figure represents a 60% in the five years since 2014/15.
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In Suffolk the figure rose by 712 to 1,156, while in Essex the increase was 882, from 1,293 to 2,175.
Norfolk saw its figures rise by 616, from 774 to 1,390.
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A Suffolk Constabulary spokesman said: “Responding effectively to reports of child sexual abuse is a high priority for Suffolk Constabulary and there has been substantial investment in investigators and support services across the county.
“The rise in the number of sex offences against children in Suffolk broadly echoes a national trend.
“More resources than ever are being directed to deal with these reports. Working effectively with partners in the public and charitable sectors, our combined aim is to prevent harm to those being abused, to safeguard vulnerable children and young people and to bring offenders to justice.”
Nationally, there were 73,518 such offences recorded in 2019/20, up 57% in the five years since 2014/15 - equivalent to nearly 200 offences every day last year.
The figures were compiled by the NSPCC from a Freedom of Information request sent to the 43 police forces across England and Wales asking for the number of recorded sexual offences against children under 18 between April 1, 2019 and March 31, 2020.
There are fears the figures will continue to rise as the NSPCC report ‘The Impact of the Coronavirus Pandemic on Child Welfare: Sexual Abuse’, shows there have been an average of 23 contacts to Childline per week about child sexual abuse in the home this summer, up threefold since March 23 when lockdown was announced.
The charity urged the Home Office to publish and implement its Tackling Child Sexual Abuse Strategy, announced by then-Home Secretary Sajid Javid at its ‘How Safe are our Children’ conference in June last year.
There were 12,374 sex crimes recorded against children under 10, while 449 offences were recorded against babies yet to reach their first birthday.
The charity said the figures on child sexual abuse show the need for national leadership in response and urged the Home Office to publish and implement its Tackling Child Sexual Abuse Strategy.
The strategy was announced by then Home Secretary Sajid Javid at the NSPCC’s ‘How Safe are our Children’ conference in June last year but has yet to be published.
NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless said: “The crisis of child sexual abuse is not going away and behind these figures are thousands of children and young people who have reported crimes that can have a devastating impact on their lives.
“Urgent action is needed to prevent abuse and to ensure children are supported to recover when they bravely speak out.
“We need concerted leadership from governments across the UK to implement strategies on tackling child sexual abuse that put the experiences and needs of children at their heart and are effective in preventing abuse and helping young people recover.”
Childline is available for young people on 0800 1111 or at its website.Anyone concerned about a child can contact the NSPCC Helpline for advice on 0808 800 5000.