Regular and comparative data needed to create ‘full picture’ of child sexual abuse

There are “significant gaps” in knowledge about the scope and nature of child sexual abuse and exploitation, a report by the Centre of Expertise on Child Sexual Abuse (CECSA) has revealed.

Jul 5, 2017

There are “significant gaps” in knowledge about the scope and nature of child sexual abuse and exploitation, a report by the Centre of Expertise on Child Sexual Abuse (CECSA) has revealed. Published on Wednesday (July 5), the Measuring the Scale and Changing Nature of Child Sexual Abuse and Child Sexual Exploitation report concludes that around 15 per cent of girls and five per cent of boys experience some form of sexual abuse. However, the authors say that it is impossible to tell whether child sexual abuse (CSA) is increasing, or if the ‘hidden’ abuse is now being reported. Historical abuse is also included in criminal justice data, which does not give a true figure of the CSA problem today. The report also highlighted gaps in knowledge due to profiles of victims and perpetrators – apart from gender – not being consistently recorded, meaning any patterns and contexts of CSA can not be established. And existing surveys focus on different elements of child sexual abuse rather than child sexual exploitation, and many of them are solitary studies. The CECSA called on the Government to conduct a regular comprehensive study, with the help of the Office for National Statistics, to build a better picture of CSA across England and Wales. Home Secretary Amber Rudd said: “This Government has done more than any other to tackle these terrible crimes. We have increased support for victims, invested in training and technology to improve law enforcement`s response to abuse both on and offline, and brought in a tougher inspection regime to ensure all front-line professions are meeting their child protection duties.” Cassandra Harrison, Director of the CECSA, added: “Although understanding of CSA has improved over the years, this study shows that there is not yet a full enough picture; there are significant gaps in knowledge about victims and perpetrators, as well as the nature of the abuse itself.”

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