The number of child sex offences recorded by Sussex Police rose to 1,496 last year – an average of four a day – according to figures obtained by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC).
Of that figure, a total of 433 crimes were recorded against children aged 10 and under, while 119 of these crimes were perpetrated against children four and under, some of whom would be too young to even attend primary school.
Child sex offences recorded included rape, sexual assault, and sexual exploitation.
The children’s charity says that when compared to the previous year’s figures (1,212), the latest data shows the number of offences recorded by Sussex Police increased by 23 per cent.
A number of reasons could explain the dramatic increase, according to the NSPCC:
- Police forces improving recording methods.
- Survivors feeling more confident in disclosing abuse following high-profile cases.
- Online grooming becoming a major problem with predators reaching multiple children.
To cope with the numbers of children coming forward, the NSPCC is calling for specialist training for police investigating online child abuse, effective rehabilitation for child sex offenders, and investment in early intervention services to help children recover.
While the latest figures are shocking, the NSPCC says there are concerns the total number of sex offences committed against children could be a lot higher due to children not coming forward because they are frightened, embarrassed, or do not realise that they have been abused.
Through its Speak Out. Stay Safe programme, the NSPCC is teaching a generation of children about the signs of abuse and who they can turn to for help and support.
Amanda Rocca, Schools Area Coordinator for Brighton & Hove, said: “This steep rise lays bare just how extensive this appalling crime against children has become, claiming multiple victims every hour, some of whom are yet to say their first word.
“Sexual abuse can shatter a child’s life and leave them feeling ashamed, depressed, or even suicidal. Now, more than ever, victims need help as soon as possible to help them recover from their ordeals and go on to lead full and happy lives.
“Government must commit funds to early intervention that better help these children who through no fault of their own are enduring so much pain.”