A survey conducted by the Office for National Statistics has shown that an average of 7% of adults in England and Wales (11% of women and 3% of men) were sexually assaulted during their childhood.
It is believed that this survey gives a more complete picture of the extent of childhood sexual abuse in England and Wales than has previously been available. As well as reporting on the number of people who suffered sexual abuse the survey also recorded information about the perpetrators of these crimes, showing that the perpetrator was most likely to be a friend or acquaintance (30% of the reports) or another member of the family (26% of reports). 15% of male survivors of sexual abuse and 4% of female survivors reported that they had been abused by someone in a position of trust or authority such as a teacher or youth worker.
The survey also highlights the problem of abuse going unreported. 3 out of 4 victims said they did not report what had happened at the time. The most common reason given for failure to report was “embarrassment or humiliation, or thinking that they would not be believed”.
The chief executive of Barnardo’s has referred to the sheer scale of those who reported witnessing abuse or being abused as children, describing it as ‘utterly staggering’.
One positive development is that, according to Home Office figures, increasing numbers of perpetrators of child sexual abuse are being convicted. In 2015 5,940 people were convicted in the criminal courts, which is an increase of 19% on the previous year.