For the first time, a new report from the Vulnerability Knowledge and Practice Programme (VKPP) sets out publicly a clear, detailed picture of reported Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation (CSAE) crimes across England and Wales.
Based on datasets collected from 42 police forces, this national snapshot gives insight and analysis into the scale and nature of CSAE, trends in offending, including crime types, where they were committed, and presents profiles of both victims and perpetrators.
The analysis sets out the consistent growth in CSAE reported to police with 107,000 crimes reported to policing a figure that has risen significantly in the last ten years ago. More than half of CSAE offences were committed by children, a significant increase from what was previously known.
The report also shows that over a third of CSAE contact crimes take place within the family environment. Group-based CSAE accounts for 5% of all identified and reported CSAE.
It serves to raise awareness of this extremely worrying and rapidly growing problem. Whilst some young people will be clear in their motivation to commit peer-on-peer abuse, some will be influenced by the behaviour of others (often older than themselves). There can appear for some to be a fine line between:
texting a 'sexy' picture and distributing porn
up-skirting and voyeurism
a sly touch and sexual assault
saying 'no' and withdrawing consent
manipulation and exploitation
engaging in 'heavy petting' and rape
having an older 'boyfriend' or 'girlfriend' and sexual abuse
being asked to have sex with several people and an organised paedophile ring
The scale with which peer-on-peer abuse is rising is potentially much greater than the cases documented in this report. The statistics, particularly of familial abuse, are staggering. In times past, we warned children about 'stranger danger' and more recently about the inappropriate behaviour of trusted adults.
But safeguarding young people with regard to their friends and siblings is highly sensitive and problematic. Many children under 10, for example, may be unaware that they are being abused and some won't even realise that they are perpetrators. Initiatives such as the NSPCC's #Pants and TCS's #LookCloser campaigns have been extremely effective.
What's now needed is a comprehensive roll-out by all children-centred services to:
raise young people's awareness
inform adults in positions of trust
provide training for key people in recognising the signs
ensure effective communication, collaboration and access to resources
equip professionals with the tools for recording and reporting incidents
enable robust support for all involved
advocate for the young person being harmed
take a solution-focused approach to the rehabilitation of the perpetrator
If you haven't yet read the report you can read it here: National Analysis of Police-Recorded Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation Crimes Report 2022 | Vulnerability Knowledge and Practice Programme (vkpp.org.uk)
There is a short video with a summary of its key findings here below.
There are similar themes in my January 2024 newsletter about the 2023 Childlight Report by the Global Child Safety Institute, which highlights the nature of offending against children in Australia, the UK and America.: Newsletter 22 | Aluna (aluna-abc.co.uk)
If you or someone you know has been a victim of child sexual abuse, you may:
call the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000
email help@NSPCC.org.uk or
complete a report abuse online form.
You can also contact