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:
- 13,565 crimes against children aged 10 and under
- 2,799 crimes against children yet to even attend primary school.
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:
- police forces improving methods for recording offences
- young people feeling more confident in disclosing abuse following high-profile cases
- online grooming becoming a major problem for perpetrators reaching multiple children.
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:
- specialist training for police investigating online child abuse
- investment in early intervention services to help children recover
- effective rehabilitation for child sex offenders to prevent them from hurting more children.
“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.