More than 100 under 18s committed child sexual abuse in South West
New figures released today reveal that 117 offences of under 18s committing child sexual abuse were reported to police forces in Devon and Cornwall in the last three years.
Data obtained by the NSPCC under the Freedom of Information Act reveal the child sexual abuse data in the South West.
From its service centre in Plymouth the NSPCC provides services to treat and reform children and young people from across the Devon who exhibit signs of harmful sexual behaviour. The charity is warning that easy access to sexual material could be leading to an increase in the number of children needing help.
Sharon Copsey, NSPCC head of region for the South West said: “Any incidents like these are a real cause for concern and these figures should be ringing alarm bells with the authorities that this is a problem that needs to be tackled urgently.
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“In some cases older children are attacking younger children, in other cases it’s sexual violence within a teenage relationship. Whilst more research needs to be done on this problem, we know that technology and easy access to sexual material is warping young people’s view of what is ‘normal’ or acceptable behaviour. We are treating an increasing number of children who have carried out online grooming, harassment in chatrooms and ‘sexting’.
“Children who are sexually abusive have often been victims of abuse, harm and trauma themselves. Exposure to this can make them think sexually abusing someone or being sexual violent is ok.
“But evidence shows that most young people who receive behaviour changing treatment early on, such as that offered by the NSPCC, will not continue to sexually abuse others or grow into adult offenders. If we are to tackle this growing problem and protect young victims, more needs to be done to identify and treat children at risk of sexually offending. And we must do more to shield young people from an increasingly sexualised society.”
Across England and Wales over 5,000 offences of under -18s committing child sexual abuse were reported to the police in the last three years. The NSPCC is warning that the true figure will be even higher as not all forces in England and Wales were able to provide relevant data when responding to a Freedom of Information request.
From the 34 that did supply information a total of 5,028 offences were recorded where the perpetrator was under 18, with some as young as five or six. The alleged crimes included rape and other serious sexual assaults which were reported between 2009/10 and 2011/12.
Nearly all – 98% - of the 4,562 offenders were boys. And where the relationship was recorded at least three out of five of the victims knew the abuser. More than one-third of the offences were said to have been committed by a family friend or acquaintance and one in five by family members.
Any adult worried about a child or in need of help and advice can contact the NSPCC’s helpline on 0808 800 5000. Children and young people can contact ChildLine on 0800 1111.