The number of sexual offences against children recorded by police in Northamptonshire has increased by 12 percent, according to new figures.
The figures, released by the NSPCC, shows that in 2012-13 the total was 383 but in 2013-2014 that figure was 432. Forty-nine of the victims were aged under five.
And the charity also said its helpline had received about 100 contacts specifically about sexual abuse in the county and more than half were serious enough to be referred on to other agencies.
The figures were revealed today as the NSPCC launched its third state of the nation annual report, How safe are our children? at the charity’s annual conference in London. The report compiles the most robust and up-to-date child protection data that exists across each of the four nations in the UK, a spokesman said.
In response to an NSPCC Freedom of Information request to Northamptonshire police force, the number of offences committed against girls (365) was six times higher than that of boys (56) and 49 of the victims were children aged five and under.
The NSPCC spokesman said: “It’s not clear why the number of offences has risen. Greater awareness may be giving more victims the courage to come forward, including those reporting historical cases, or police forces have improved their recording methods. However it does mean that more children are speaking out, only to find little support to help them recover from abuse.”
Last year, the NSPCC’s service centres helped 2,400 young victims across the UK through its therapeutic recovery programme, but the charity says that there are not enough services available across the UK to ensure all children who have experienced abuse get the support they need.
NSPCC chief executive, Peter Wanless, said: “These figures are disturbing and clearly illustrate child sexual abuse is a continuing and widespread problem that needs urgent action. But we know this is still only a fraction of the true number of victims because some endure an agonising wait of many years before telling anyone – and others never reveal what has happened to them.
“It’s time to throw down the gauntlet to government which has to ensure all sexual abuse victims get specialist treatment to help them recover. By the end of this current Parliament there should be no children living in the shadow of abuse.”
Detective Superintendent Steve Lingley, Head of Crime at Northamptonshire Police, said: “Northamptonshire Police is committed to strengthening its response to safeguarding vulnerable people and has placed considerable resources into the area of child sexual exploitation.
“Great steps have been taken to encourage the reporting of both recent and historic child sexual offences, and we would expect to see an increase in the numbers of reports we are investigating.
“In March this year we launched a high-profile countywide marketing campaign to raise awareness of CSE, and we are already seeing an increase in referrals.
“We have added resources to the team of specialist officers and staff who make up the Reducing Incidents of Sexual Exploitation (RISE) team, increasing the unit’s strength to six specialist investigators, with six additional staff to support investigations and proactivity, including analytical support and a digital media investigator.
“We have improved our partnership working with the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) team which deals with referrals from professionals and members of the public who may have concerns about a child’s welfare.
“The team are now based together, and have improved processes for professionals who are making decisions about vulnerable children so that they have quicker access to relevant information and can work together more quickly to react to that information.
“Added to this, national campaigns in relation to historic abuse have given silent victims the confidence to come forward.
“Tackling child sexual exploitation is the main priority of Northamptonshire Children’s Safeguarding Board and more resources and investment has been made by partners across Northamptonshire.
“We have looked at learning across the country and we our challenging ourselves to do more to protect victims and tackle perpetrators.
“There is no greater priority for Northamptonshire Police and its partners.”
Linda Lee, chair of Voice, the victim and witness service in Northamptonshire, said: “Undoubtedly more should be done to prevent such dreadful crimes occurring and that is a responsibility that the whole of society must shoulder. Behaviour that was ignored a generation ago is no longer acceptable and we must all be vigilant to protect our children.
“We have known for many years that childhood sexual abuse has been an under reported crime and in one sense, we should welcome the increase in the number of crimes reported, because that 12 per cent increase represents an increase in the number of victims who are willing to put their trust in the justice system and to come forward and report the crime.
“Voice, the victims and witness service in Northamptonshire, has been working to encourage those who have been a victim of childhood sexual abuse to come forward and report the crime. Voice will support victims and their families through that process and will also help victims access the help they need to begin the long journey to recovery.
“Many victims do not know where to access help and support and not all agencies know how to signpost victims to that support. It can be a postcode lottery as to whether or not services are available in your area.
“However in Northamptonshire, Voice offers support for all victims and witnesses of crime, no matter when an incident took place, or the age of the person affected. We commissioned Northamptonshire Rape Crisis to provide a free, confidential helpline earlier this year, which has extended the support available.
“I would urge anyone who has been a victim of child sexual abuse to access support, no matter when the abuse took place.
“Please pick up the phone and call on 0300 222 5930, we are here to help.”