Children’s charity the NSPCC has revealed that last year it referred an average of two contacts a week in Sussex to police and children’s services from members of the public concerned a child was being sexually abused.
In 2016/17 the NSPCC’s free and confidential helpline referred 120 calls and emails to local agencies in Sussex – up from 96 contacts in 2015/16.
There were also a further 85 contacts where Helpline staff gave advice about sexual abuse against young people.
UK-wide, the charity made 4,677 referrals to children’s services or the police in 2016/17 after being contacted following concerns about sexual abuse, equivalent to almost 13 a day.
To ensure as many of these young people are getting the help they need the NSPCC has launched the ‘Light Up Christmas for Children’ appeal.
To support the campaign all you have to do is make a small cash donation by sending a simple text message.
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, for example through live streaming.
Sometimes the child won’t understand that what’s happening to them is abuse or, in some cases, that it’s even wrong.
Children who have experienced sexual abuse may:
Avoid being alone with people, such as family members or friends
Show sexual behaviour that’s inappropriate for their age
Have physical symptoms such as a sexually transmitted infection
One caller who phoned the NSPCC helpline said: “I am concerned that a young girl in the neighbourhood might be at risk of sexual abuse by men who visit the house on weekends.
“There is lots of drinking that goes on and mum doesn’t seem to be too concerned about leaving her alone with them. Mum can be often heard shouting and swearing at the girl and I don’t think she is fit to care for her.”
It is estimated that one in 20 children in the UK have experienced contact sexual abuse. The NSPCC is calling for a new UK government-commissioned, nationwide prevalence study on child abuse and neglect – sooner rather than later – to increase the understanding of the scale of this problem.
John Cameron, head of Helplines at the NSPCC explained: “It is deeply worrying that so many children are potentially being exposed to such a devastating experience, but at the same time it also suggests that as a society we are much more alert to the risks and much more willing to come forward and share our concerns.
“Sexual abuse can do huge damage to a child’s life and left untreated will often haunt them long into adulthood. It is therefore vital that anyone who suspects a young person is in danger contacts the authorities or gets in touch with us through our dedicated Helpline.”
To support the NSPCC’s Christmas campaign simply text ‘NSPCC 4’ to 70744 to donate £4, or visit www.nspcc.org.uk. Text costs include your donation of £4 plus your standard network rate. The NSPCC will receive 100 per cent of your donation.