Statistics on child sexual abuse

on Dec 20, 12 • in News

June 2012

  • Nearly a quarter of young adults experienced sexual abuse during childhood.
  • 17,727 sexual crimes against children under 16 were recorded in England and Wales in 2010/11.
  • Research statistics on the prevalence of child sexual abuse

Child abuse and neglect in the UK today (Radford et al, 2011) is a major piece of NSPCC research which interviewed 1,761 young adults aged 18-24 years; 2,275 children aged 11-17 years and 2,160 parents of children aged under 11.

Below are the key findings on child sexual abuse.

Experience of some form of sexual abuse

  • Nearly a quarter of young adults (24.1%) experienced sexual abuse (including contact and non-contact), by an adult or by a peer during childhood.
  • One in six children aged 11-17 (16.5%) have experienced sexual abuse.
  • Almost one in 10 children aged 11-17 (9.4%) have experienced sexual abuse in the past year. Teenage girls aged between 15 and 17 years reported the highest past year rates of sexual abuse.
  • Experience of contact sexual abuse (see Table 5.2)
  • One in nine young adults (11.3%) experienced contact sexual abuse during childhood.
  • One in 20 children aged 11-17 (4.8%) have experienced contact sexual abuse.
  • Two thirds (65.9%) of contact sexual abuse experienced by children aged 0-17 was perpetrated by someone aged under 18.

Disclosing sexual abuse (see page 118)

  • More than one in three children aged 11-17 (34%) who experienced contact sexual abuse by an adult did not tell anyone else about it.
  • Four out of five children aged 11-17 (82.7%) who experienced contact sexual abuse from a peer did not tell anyone else about it.
  • From: Radford, Lorraine, Corral, Susana, Bradley, Christine, Fisher, Helen, Bassett, Claire, Howat, Nick and Collishaw, Stephan (2011) Child abuse and neglect in the UK today. London: NSPCC.

Child protection register statistics

  • There were 3,142 children in the UK on child protection registers or the subject of child protection plans under a category that included sexual abuse on 31 March 2011 (or 31 July 2011 in Scotland).
  • 6% of all the children on child protection registers or the subject of child protection plans in the UK were under a category that included sexual abuse on 31 March 2011 (or 31 July 2011 in Scotland).
  • For a breakdown by nation and the source of these figures please visit our page on child protection register statistics .

Crime statistics on sex offences

  • 17,727 sexual crimes against children under 16 were recorded in England and Wales in 2010/11.
  • 32% of all sexual crimes (54,982 sexual crimes in total) recorded in England and Wales in 2010/11 were sexual crimes against children under 16.
  • In 2010/11 the police in England and Wales recorded:
  • 5,115 offences of rape of a female child under 16
  • 918 offences of rape of a male child under 16
  • 4,301 offences of sexual assault on a female child under 13
  • 1,125 offences of sexual assault on a male child under 13
  • 5,806 offences of sexual activity involving a child under 16
  • 152 offences of abuse of children through prostitution and pornography
  • 310 offences of sexual grooming.
  • In 2010/11 the police in England and Wales also recorded 146 offences of abuse of a position of trust involving a child under 18.
  • More than one third (38%) of all rapes recorded by the police in England and Wales in 2010/11 were committed against children under 16 years of age.

From: Chaplin, Rupert, Faltley, John and Smith, Kevin (eds.) (2011) Table 2.04. In: Crime in England and Wales 2010/11: findings from the British Crime Survey and police recorded crime (PDF). London: National Statistics. p.43.

  • Police recorded over 23,000 sex offences against children aged under 18 years in England and Wales between April 2010 and March 2011.
  • From: Information obtained by NSPCC from all 43 police forces in England and Wales under the Freedom of Information Act. See: NSPCC (2012) Figures obtained by the NSPCC reveal sixty child sex offences a day. NSPCC press release 4 April 2012. London: NSPCC.

Offender statistics

37,225 individuals were registered as sexual offenders in England and Wales on 31 March 2010.
It is not possible to establish the number of sexual offenders against children in the UK, as the age of the victim of the sex offence is not given. Therefore these figures include sex offenders against adults as well as sex offenders against children.

From: Ministry of Justice (2011) Table 1. In: Multi-agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) annual report 2010/11 (PDF). London: Ministry of Justice.

60-70% of child sex offenders target girls only, about 20-33% boys only, and about 10% children of either sex.
“The majority of perpetrators sexually assault children known to them, with about 80% of offences taking place in the home of either the offender or the victim.”
From: Grubin, Don (1998) Sex offending against children: understanding the risk (PDF). London: Home Office. pp.v-vi and p.26.

Retrospective studies present a broad consensus that between 23-40% of all alleged sexual abuse of children and young people is perpetrated by other young people, mainly adolescents.
See: NSPCC (2011) NSPCC finds 64 child sex crimes a day recorded by police. NSPCC press release 26 May 2011. London: NSPCC.

Lovell, Elizabeth (2002) Children and young people who display sexually harmful behaviour. London: NSPCC.

Cawson, P. et al (2000) Child maltreatment in the United Kingdom: a study of the prevalence of child abuse and neglect. London: NSPCC.

Horne, L.et al (1991) Sexual abuse of children by children. Journal of Child Law, 3(4): 147-151.

Kelly, L., Regan, L. and Burton, S. (1991) An exploratory study of the prevalence of sexual abuse in a sample of 16-21 year olds. London: Polytechnic of North London, Child Abuse Studies Unit.

Morrison, T. (1999) Is there a strategy out there? In: Erooga, M. and Masson, H. (eds) Children and young people who sexually abuse others: challenges and responses. London: Routledge.

Royal Belfast Hospital and Queen’s University of Belfast (1990) Child sexual abuse in Northern Ireland: a research study of incidence. Antrim: Greystone Books.

Research statistics on provision of services to sexually abused children

  • An estimated 55,000 children who have experienced sexual abuse receive no therapeutic support each year because of a shortfall in the availability of therapeutic services.
  • There is only one therapeutic support programme for every 25,000 children living in the UK and many areas provide no therapeutic provision for sexually abused children at all.
  • From: Allnock, Debra et al (2009) Sexual abuse and therapeutic services for children and young people: the gap between provision and need. London: NSPCC.

Children talking to ChildLine about sexual abuse

Children talking to ChildLine about sexual abuse
Mariathasan, Jeevi 
London: NSPCC, 2010
A ChildLine casenote based on analysis of calls to ChildLine about sexual abuse from April 2008 to March 2009. Looks at the number of children counselled, additional problems children talk about, types of sexual abuse reported, age and gender breakdown of callers and perpetrators.
Calls to ChildLine about sexual abuse
ChildLine
London: NSPCC, 2007
A ChildLine casenote based on analysis of calls to ChildLine about sexual abuse from April 2005 to March 2006. Includes statistics on sexual abuse including who children tell and what happens then, and the victim-offender relationship.
Further reading

People convicted of child abuse image offences

Analysis of 284 cases reported in local and national news of people convicted for making, possessing or distributing indecent images of children.

Sexual and physical violence against children in Northern Ireland: a statistical overview of recorded crime 2008–10 (PDF, 393KB)

Analysis of offences recorded by the Police Service for Northern Ireland (PSNI).

Child protection register statistics

Our annual summary of child protection register statistics for England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

How to find, understand and use statistics about child abuse

A brief introduction to child abuse statistics.

Comparing child abuse statistics over time and between countries

Explains the issues around looking for trends in statistics over time, within the UK and internationally.

Contact the NSPCC Information Service for further information on sexual abuse, statistics or any child protection topic

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