'Many young lives blighted' as number of child-on-child sexual assaults increases
PUBLISHED: 07:00 23 October 2017
More children are being sexually assaulted by fellow under-16s than five years ago, 'disturbing' figures show.
Avon and Somerset Constabulary has revealed the number of child-on-child sexual assaults has increased by 62 per cent in the past five years, leaving ‘many young lives blighted’.
The figures, obtained by a freedom of information request, show almost 400 children in the force area have been sexually assaulted since 2012, with more than a quarter (114) of victims under the age of 10.
Eighty per cent of the 388 victims were girls, and the youngest victim of a child-on-child sexual assault was just one year old.
The number of incidents recorded in 2016 was 86, which is slightly down on 2015, but still shows a significant upward trend over the five-year period.
A children’s charity the NSPCC said ‘the issue is not widely understood’, and education is key to ensuring offenders’ ‘sexually harmful’ behaviour is not continued in adulthood.
Police superintendent Marie Wright believes ‘the protection and welfare of children is of paramount’.
She said: “Sadly, this type of sexual abuse is not uncommon and there are many young people whose lives have been blighted by this type of crime.
“We have a responsibility to work with our safeguarding partners to make sure all young people involved in these incidents receive the specialist help and support they need.”
And Supt Wright indicated the figures may not reveal the true pervasiveness of the crime.
She said: “We know sexual offences are under-reported, but we’ve still seen an increase in this type of sexual offence over the past five years. This could in part be attributed to an increase in awareness, a greater confidence in the police, and more effective multi-agency arrangements.
“These figures highlight the ongoing importance of building resilience in young people and educating them about sexual relationships and the safe use of technology and social media.
“This cannot be left to chance, which is why we continually engage with schools to educate and raise awareness of all forms of abuse.”
The NSPCC described the figures as ‘disturbing’.
A spokesman added: “Most children who carry out abuse do not go on to become adult offenders if they are given the right support.”