In Brief

Seven in eight child sex abuse cases undetected, claims study

Children's commissioner believes hundreds of thousands of victims are missed by authorities

Around 85 per cent of child sex abuse victims remain undetected by the police and local authorities, according to a new report by the children's commissioner.

The study found that two thirds of abuse happens in and around the family and that 75 per cent of victims are girls.

While 50,000 cases of abuse were identified between April 2012 and March 2014, the study suggests the actual number was more likely to be up to 450,000, meaning just one in eight children were identified by authorities.

The report says it gathered the "largest and most comprehensive body of evidence ever on child sexual abuse in and around the family in England".

It looked at data from police forces across England and information held by the Department for Education, and carried out the "largest ever" survey of adult survivors of child sexual abuse in the family, with 756 respondents in total. The report also drew on a recent study that found that 11.3 per cent of young adults aged 18 to 24 had experienced sexual abuse during their childhood.

Children's commissioner Anne Longfield called for urgent action to target the "most common form of child sexual abuse – that which takes place behind the front door within families or their trusted circles".

Longfield told the BBC she wants to see more training to help teachers, social services and other professionals to identify abuse, using signs in children such as withdrawal or overly sexualised behaviour. "A system which waits for children to tell someone cannot be effective," she said.

The report also recommended compulsory lessons about safe relationships for children as young as five and teaching children to talk to an appropriate adult if they are worried about abuse.

The Department for Education said it would "carefully consider" the recommendations, adding that it had set up a cross-government child protection taskforce, invested £100m to support vulnerable children and is providing £7m for services supporting child abuse survivors.

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