Latest figures show NSPCC helpline has reached record levels of reports about child sexual exploitation and abuse

Our NSPCC helpline has received on average 26 contacts a day from people concerned a child is being or has been sexually exploited and/or abused. This reached a record high of 4,735 reports, a 36% increase in the first six months of 2021/22 when compared to the same six months of the previous year.1  

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Calls to our helpline about child sexual exploitation and/or abuse included worries that a child was being groomed, sometimes by adults in positions of authority, suffering intra-familial sexual abuse or experiencing sexual harassment and abuse at the hands of other young people. Some calls also came from adults who suffered non-recent sexual abuse, often having been manipulated and coerced by people they trusted.   

Where the time period of the concern was known (3,560 contacts):

  • 40% of the child sexual exploitation and/or abuse was reported to have happened in the last six months
  • 60% of the cases were reported to date further back.

More than 1,500 of these calls resulted in referrals to external agencies, such as the police or local authorities to take further action. 

Some people who reported incidents of child sexual abuse were motivated by media coverage about testimonies posted on Everyone’s Invited and violence against women and girls.


Monica* called our NSPCC Helpline after her daughter’s friend, Emily*, disclosed that her father had sexually abused her thirteen-year-old sister. 

“She told me that everyone in the family was quite afraid of her angry and sometimes violent father. I thought Emily felt it was on her shoulders to do something about it, but she was also very afraid. 

I knew I had to act. I couldn’t have done anything else. It was hard to make that call to the NSPCC helpline but they reassured me I had done the right thing. 

I saw Emily some months later. She came over, gave me a hug and said thank you. It meant a lot to me. Although I may never know what happened after that evening, I was glad I could help her and I knew I made a difference for the better.

Sometime later, I spoke to a neighbour who told me that she had heard something that worried her about Emily’s father’s behaviour toward the children, but that she had not acted for fear of ‘getting involved’. She seemed very pleased that I had acted and still appeared to very much regret that she had done nothing herself. It made me think that if I hadn’t acted as I did I would never have forgiven myself.”

It’s important for adults to be aware of the dangers children face and to contact our helpline if you have any concerns about the wellbeing of a child. 

We also need to see a multi-agency response across the country where schools, local authorities, the NHS, police, and other safeguarding professionals join forces to protect children. Children who have suffered child sexual abuse must also be able to access special therapeutic support in the areas that they live.

Head of the NSPCC helpline, Kam Thandi, said:

“We know people have felt empowered to voice their concerns to our helpline after a surge in publicity about sexual violence towards women and girls and peer-on-peer abuse in schools following the revelations on the Everyone’s Invited website.  

We are also worried that the risk of abuse has gone up since the start of the pandemic with children more vulnerable and out of sight of the adults who can keep them safe.

We continue to encourage anyone who has concerns about a child or who has suffered child sexual exploitation and/or abuse to seek help and support, no matter if it happened in the recent or distant past. It is never too late to make a report.

We all have a role to play in preventing child sexual abuse – and our experts are here to support both adults to spot signs of abuse and share concerns and to give children the chance to speak out and stay safe.”

Worried about a child?

You can call our free and confidential helpline to report any concerns you have about a child's wellbeing in a safe place. You can also contact our helpline to make a report and find support if you have suffered non-recent abuse.

Call 0808 800 5000

 


References

  1. 1. In April - September 2021, the NSPCC responded to the highest monthly average number of contacts about domestic abuse since the current recording method began, in 2017.