Child sexual offences in Wales double in five years

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Unhappy teenage girlImage source, Thinkstock
Image caption,
Figures were provided by Wales' four police forces - Gwent, South Wales, Dyfed-Powys and North Wales

Child sexual offences in Wales have doubled in the past five years, according to an NSPCC Cymru report.

Last year, there were more than 3,700 recorded by Wales' four police forces - a rate of more than 10 a day.

The charity called on the Welsh Government to extend its Child Sexual Abuse Strategy beyond 2021, putting children and prevention at the core of work to reduce cases.

The government said it set out clear actions to prevent child sexual abuse.

In total, there were 3,715 recorded offences in 2019/20, including rape, online grooming and sexual assault against children in Wales in 2019-20, representing a 107% rise since 2014-15.

Of these, 558 offences were committed against 14-year-olds, making it the most common age group to report offences, with 868 sex crimes recorded against children aged ten and under.

Where gender and age were recorded, girls were almost four times more likely than boys to be victims.

Image source, Thinkstock
Image caption,
A Welsh Government strategy to tackle problems around child sexual abuse was the first of its kind in the UK

The NSPCC asked all UK police forces to provide the latest data on sexual offences against under 18s through the Freedom of Information Act - and 44 out of 45 responded.

In Wales, the organisation said figures highlight the need for a strategy beyond 2021 - which is when the current one runs until.

The Welsh Government published its National Action Plan on Preventing and Responding to Child Sexual Abuse in 2019, which was the first of its kind in the UK.

Image caption,
NSPCC Cymru wants steps to be taken to ensure action is taken long into the future

"The crisis of child sexual abuse is not going away, and these stark figures highlight the thousands of children and young people in Wales behind these reported crimes," said NSPCC Cymru's Cecile Gwilym.

"Sexual abuse can have a devastating and untold effect on the lives of those impacted, and whilst we have been encouraged that the Welsh Government listened to our calls for a holistic strategy to prevent child sexual abuse in all its forms, further steps must now be taken to ensure this strategy is extended beyond 2021.

"This should focus on effective prevention, protecting children at risk of child sexual abuse, and providing timely child-centred support to those who have been abused to help them recover from such trauma."

The organisation called for those who have experienced abuse to have timely access to specialist services, an increased focus put on perpetrators, and interventions to support young people displaying harmful sexual behaviour.

'Clear actions'

The NSPCC's Childline service, which has 12 bases including two in Wales, has been hearing from children and young people that have been sexually abused and having to spend more time with their abuser during lockdown.

A Welsh Government spokeswoman said: "Our National Action Plan sets out clear actions to prevent child sexual abuse, to protect children at risk and to support abused children.

"We have already said we will consider learning from the Child House pilot project and services in Wales are developing in line with this approach.

"The implementation of an All Wales Traumatic Stress Quality Improvement Initiative will also inform evidence based support for children traumatised through sexual abuse."

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