Child sexual abuse: statistics briefing

Publication date 2021

How many children experience sexual abuse?

We don't know exactly how many children in the UK experience sexual abuse. However, research with 2,275 young people aged 11-17 about their experiences of sexual abuse suggests around 1 in 20 children in the UK have been sexually abused.

Sexual abuse is usually hidden from view. Adults in the child or young person’s life may not recognise the signs of sexual abuse and the child may be too young, too scared or too ashamed to tell anyone what is happening to them.

There are a number of different sources of information, including data from services which work with children and research into children's and adults' self-reported experiences of abuse, which help build up a picture of the scale of abuse.

This briefing looks at what data and statistics are available about child sexual abuse to help professionals, and the organisations they work for, make evidence-based decisions.

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Findings from the data

  • Concerns around sexual abuse have been identified for over 2,800 children in the UK who are the subject of a child protection plan or on a child protection register.
  • Over a third of all police-recorded sexual offences are against children.
  • Girls and older children are more likely to experience sexual abuse.
  • The vast majority of children who experience sexual abuse were abused by someone they knew.

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