04 August 2016
Statistics published today as part of the Crime Survey of England and Wales show the numbers of adults who experienced abuse as a child.
As a police officer and the national police lead for child protection, it is sobering to know that 9% of adults aged 16 to 59 had experienced psychological abuse, 7% physical abuse, 7% sexual assault and 8% witnessed domestic violence or abuse in the home. Much of this abuse was committed by family or close friends - people that children should be able to trust.
Sexual abuse of children and young people committed by well-known personalities, by groups and gangs or in our institutions has dominated the media and public consciousness in recent months and years. But these figures show that survivors of sexual assault by rape were most commonly abused by a friend or acquaintance or a family member other than their parent or step parent. We need to identify those children at risk of harm and take them out of that abusive environment at the earliest possible opportunity.
Following revelations about the behaviour of Jimmy Savile, police saw an unprecedented surge in the number of adults reporting child sexual abuse. This is a positive step as it demonstrates increased confidence among victims to report offences and a change in the police approach that has helped to promote and maintain that confidence. The upward trend in reporting has continued over the past four years as victims continue to find the courage and confidence to come forward and report child sexual abuse.
However, there remain many more victims who have not, for many reasons, reported their experiences of abuse to the police. The hidden scale of non-recent child sexual abuse is revealed in these statistics with an estimated 567,000 women and 102,000 men having been victims of rape or sexual assault by penetration as a child. The survey also reported that three quarters of adults who reported having experienced child sexual abuse had not told anyone.
As the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse goes on, I anticipate the number of referrals to police will continue to increase. We will keep encouraging those who have been the victim of child abuse to report it to us in the knowledge that they will be listened to, believed and an impartial investigation launched. This is the right approach for all victims of crime, not just non-recent child sexual abuse.
By the time a victim reports child abuse it is too late – the damage has been done. It is vital that, as a society, we work together to spot the signs and intervene early to prevent the children of today becoming the victims of tomorrow.