There were 55,507 child sex offences recorded by the police last year – a rise of almost a fifth, the NSPCC has warned.
Police figures show that child sex offences including rape, sexual assault and sexual exploitation are recorded on average every 10 minutes in UK.
The cases of child abuse included:
NSPCC Chief Executive Peter Wanless said: “This steep rise lays bare just how extensive this appalling crime against children has become, claiming multiple victims every hour, some of whom are yet to say their first word.
“Sexual abuse can shatter a child's life and leave them feeling ashamed, depressed, or even suicidal. Now, more than ever, victims need help as soon as possible to help them recover from their ordeals and go on to lead full and happy lives,” he added.
The NSPCC says that a number of factors could have contributed to the rise, including:
However, the charity warns that the exact number of sex offences committed in the UK remains unknown. Children may not have come forward because they're frightened, ashamed, or don't realise they've been abused.
The NSPCC is calling for:
“Government must commit funds to early intervention that better help these children who through no fault of their own are enduring so much pain,” Wanless concluded.