Just 1 in 8 sexually abused children identified by authorities

Urgent action needed to support more children after sexual abuse

Boy looking at camera

Research has revealed that the true scale of child sexual abuse in England is significantly greater than official figures suggest. Just 1 in 8 sexually abused children are identified by authorities.

The research, carried out by the Children's Commissioner, suggests that 450,000 victims of family related abuse came forward over a 2 year period, yet only 50,000 were known to authorities.

We're calling for urgent action to identify more victims of sexual abuse. Services to protect children are currently geared towards children referring or reporting abuse themselves. But children rarely do this, often not recognising they have been abused until much later.

We need more awareness on the rates of sexual abuse within families and close circles, and better support to help them recover from their horrific experiences.

Jon Brown, NSPCC lead for tackling child sexual abuse, co-chaired the Inquiry Panel with Children's Commissioner for England Anne Longfield.

"The dearth of provision for victims of child sexual abuse is appalling. If you ask the public they will think help and support will be there for these children. But sadly this is all too often not the case. "
Jon Brown / Head of NSPCC sexual abuse programmes

Report findings

The report also reveals:

  • 66% of child sexual abuse takes place within the family or its trusted circle
  • girls are much more likely to suffer abuse – though males may be under-represented because they are less likely to report abuse or for it to be identified
  • professionals working with children need additional support to help them identify victims of sexual abuse.

Read the full report on Protecting children from harm

Sexual abuse

A child is sexually abused when they are forced or persuaded to take part in sexual activities. This doesn't have to be physical contact, and it can happen online.
Read more about sexual abuse

"The legacy on people's lives of child sexual abuse is huge and we see it every day in our work. Child and Adult Mental Health Services often don't have the capacity and expertise to help children that have been through hell, and we need a complete rethink about how we can ensure children who have suffered sexual abuse get the help they need and at the right time."
Jon Brown / Head of NSPCC sexual abuse programmes


Signs, symptoms and effects of child abuse and neglect

The signs of child abuse aren't always obvious, and a child might not tell anyone what's happening to them. Sometimes children don't understand that what's happening is abuse. 
Find out more

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Call us or email help@nspcc.org.uk.

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