THE NUMBER of child sex offences reported to police across Wales rose to 2,328 last year: An average of more than six a day.
The figures, obtained by NSPCC Cymru/Wales, show a 13 per cent rise on 2014/15, when 2,069 sexual offences against children were recorded by Wales’s four police forces.
Dyfed Powys Police saw the most significant increase, from 328 to 679 in 15/16; a 107 per cent rise.
A total of 643 victims in Wales were aged ten or under. At least 185 victims were four and under, some of whom would be too young to even attend primary school.
The other forces recorded the following figures, which were released to NSPCC Cymru / Wales under the Freedom of Information Act:
- North Wales
398 (14/15) 584 (15/16)
- South Wales
637 (14/15) 753 (15/16)
706 (14/15) 311 (15/16)
Across the UK, the figure rose to a record 55,507 last year, which an average of 152 a day or one child sex offence every ten minutes.
Police recorded crimes against children that included rape, sexual assault, and sexual exploitation.
The NSPCC believes a number of reasons could explain the increase across Wales and the rest of the UK, including police forces improving recording methods; survivors feeling more confident in disclosing abuse following high-profile cases, and online grooming becoming a major problem with predators reaching multiple children.
The total number of sex offences committed is unknown, as more children may not have come forward because they are frightened, embarrassed, or do not realise that they have been abused.
Currently, police and social services mostly react when child sexual abuse is reported. NSPCC believes there needs to be a concerted shift towards early intervention and preventing child sexual abuse before children are exposed to harm.
NSPCC Cymru is calling on the Welsh Government to lead on the development of a comprehensive child sexual abuse action plan.
This is why the children’s charity, as well as Stop it Now! Wales and The Survivors Trust, are working in partnership on a cross party group on child sexual abuse in the National Assembly for Wales.
The NSPCC’s “Speak Out. Stay Safe” programme visits primary schools across the UK to help children learn the signs of abuse and what to do if they have been the victim of such abuse.
The programme, which was launched in Wales in 2011, has already reached more than 80,000 children.
NSPCC also wants every child who is sexually abused to receive a therapeutic service to enable them to recover from the experience.
It is also essential that children receive a therapeutic service to help them recover. The charity’s ‘Letting The Future In’ service provides therapy for children who have been sexually abused and the charity is working with other organisations to increase the amount of therapeutic support available for children in Wales.
NSPCC also provides the ‘Protect and Respect’ programme which helps older children and young people who have been, or are at risk of being, sexually exploited.
Des Mannion, head of NSPCC Cymru / Wales, said: “Sexual abuse can shatter a child’s life and without help have lifelong impacts. Victims need help to speak out and support to help them recover from their ordeals and go on to lead full and happy lives.
“NSPCC is calling on the Welsh Government to lead on the development of a comprehensive child sexual abuse action plan. This action plan could ensure that parents and professionals know what to do to prevent child sexual abuse as well as ensuring children receive the help they need to recover.
“Given the increasing prevalence of online offending we need to ensure children and young people are protected online. It is therefore crucial that a comprehensive online safety action plan is also developed, supported by a digital advisory group.”