Sexual abuse Facts and statistics

Official statistics, published annually, show the amount of child sexual abuse recorded by authorities in the year. The problem is much bigger than shown in official statistics, as most crimes are not disclosed and/or reported.

Most sexual abuse isn’t reported, detected or prosecuted. Most children don’t tell anyone that they’re being sexually abused. It’s a crime that is usually only witnessed by the abuser and the victim.

1 in 20 children in the UK have been sexually abused.

Explanation: Figures based on findings from 11-17 year olds. Young people aged 11-17 were asked whether anyone had tried to make them do anything sexual. Those aged 16-17 were also asked if they had done sexual things with an adult in a position of trust or with an adult when they were still under 16 years.

The research uses a definition of sexual abuse that includes any unwanted sexual activity, as well as criminal sexual activity with an adult, where physical contact took place. It does not include non-contact sexual abuse (such as flashing or saying sexual things) or "consensual" sexual activity between adolescents.

4.8% of 11-17 year olds reported contact sexual abuse at some point in childhood (see p.8).

1 in 3 children sexually abused by an adult did not tell anyone.

Explanation: Figures based on findings from 11-17 year olds. Young people aged 11-17 were asked whether anyone had tried to make them do anything sexual. Those aged 16-17 were also asked if they had done sexual things with an adult in a position of trust or with an adult when they were still under 16 years.

The research uses a definition of sexual abuse that includes any unwanted sexual activity, as well as criminal sexual activity with an adult, where physical contact took place. It does not include non-contact sexual abuse (such as flashing or saying sexual things) or "consensual" sexual activity between adolescents.

34% of 11-17 year olds sexually abused by an adult said nobody else knew about it (see p.9).

Over 90% of sexually abused children were abused by someone they knew.

Explanation: Figures based on findings from 11-17 year olds. Young people aged 11-17 were asked whether anyone had tried to make them do anything sexual. Those aged 16-17 were also asked if they had done sexual things with an adult in a position of trust or with an adult when they were still under 16 years.

The research uses a definition of sexual abuse that includes any unwanted sexual activity, as well as criminal sexual activity with an adult, where physical contact took place. It does not include non-contact sexual abuse (such as flashing or saying sexual things) or "consensual" sexual activity between adolescents.

The 90% figure is not in the published report, but is based on additional analysis of the data.

Over 2,700 children were identified as needing protection from sexual abuse last year.

Explanation: There were 2,701 children in the UK on child protection registers or the subject of child protection plans under a category that included sexual abuse on 31 March 2013 (or 31 July 2013 in Scotland). This equates to 5% of all the children on child protection registers or the subject of child protection plans. This is based on figures from each UK nation and includes all categories that include sexual abuse. These figures represent children identified and assessed as being at risk of significant harm from sexual abuse.

Find out more about the child protection system in the UK

16% of contacts to the NSPCC’s helpline last year were concerns about sexual abuse.

Explanation: The NSPCC’s helpline responded to 50,989 contacts in 2012/13, from people who were concerned about a child’s welfare. 7,347 of contacts (or 16%) related to concerns about sexual abuse. 

The NSPCC’s helpline responded to over 7,300 contacts about sexual abuse last year. 

Explanation: The NSPCC’s helpline responded to 50,989 contacts in 2012/13, from people who were concerned about a child’s welfare. 7,347 of contacts (or 16%) related to concerns about sexual abuse.

People

Over 18,600 children and young people talked to ChildLine last year about sexual abuse.

Explanation: 12,431 children and young people contacted ChildLine to talk about sexual abuse. For these cases, this was the main reason why young people contacted ChildLine. Sexual abuse accounts for 4% of all counselling sessions. In a further 6,206 counselling sessions, sexual abuse was talked about as an issue related to another concern. This means that last year over 18,600 young people were counselled about this issue.

Sexual abuse includes where the young person has been persuaded/forced by an adult/ older person to take part in sexual activities, or encouraged to behave in a sexually inappropriate way. It includes online sexual abuse such as exposure to sexually explicit images, grooming, sexting etc.

Over 1,000 young people talked to ChildLine last year about online sexual abuse.

Explanation: 1,061 young people specifically talked about online sexual abuse to ChildLine in 2012/13. 

People

Over 23,000 sexual offences against children were recorded in the UK last year.

Explanation: There were a total of 23,663 sexual offences against children recorded by the police in England and Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland for 2012-13. Some offences are against children under 16 and some offences are against children under 18.

Sexual offences against children include: sexual assault; rape; sexual activity involving a child; abuse of position of trust; abuse of children through prostitution and pornography; sexual grooming.

People

Over 5,500 sexual offences were recorded against children under 11 last year.

Explanation: A total of 5,547 sexual offences against children aged under 11 years were recorded by 41 police forces in England and Wales in 2012-13.

Nearly 30,000 registered sex offenders have offended against children.

Explanation: This is based on data obtained by NSPCC from the National Police Improvement Agency under the Freedom of Information Act. There were 61,397 sex offenders in the UK required to register with the police as of 2012. Of these, 29,837 were required to register for committing sexual offences against children. 941 of these child sex offenders had re-offended since being on the register.

These figures only include people who have committed offences since the introduction of the Sex Offenders Act 1997.

Child sexual abuse costs the UK £3.2bn a year.

Explanation: This is an estimated cost for 2012. It is difficult to calculate exact costs because child sexual abuse can take a number of different forms, and can affect victims in a number of different ways. This calculation is based on costs for health, criminal justice service, services for children and loss of productivity to society.

One third of sexual offences recorded by the police are against children 

Explanation: 53,540 sexual offences were recorded by the police in England and Wales in 2012-13. 19,112 (36%) of these offences were carried out against children under 16 years.
See also: Jütte, S. et al (2014) How safe are our children? 2014. London: NSPCC
http://www.nspcc.org.uk/Inform/research/findings/howsafe/how-safe-2014_wda101852.html
See Indicator 4 - http://www.nspcc.org.uk/Inform/research/findings/howsafe/indicator04_wdf95542.pdf

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