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Seen and heard

War Cry comment on sex-abuse children

Only one in eight such offences are reported

THEY are the unheard victims. Young children who have been sexually assaulted by other young children. According to an investigation carried out by BBC One’s Panorama, since 2013 the number of reported sexual assaults perpetrated by under-tens on other primary school children has doubled. In 2013, the figure was 204. Last year, it was 456.

The programme spoke to a senior police officer, who calculated that only one in eight such offences are reported. If true, this puts the number of such incidents in the thousands.

One brave mum described how her young daughter had been so severely assaulted by two fellow pupils that she was unable to sit down for days. Yet, despite having carried out attacks every school day for weeks, the assailants could face no criminal action because they were below the age of criminal responsibility. Nor were there mechanisms in place to record the boys’ acts, nor was there a system that offered support to the girl or her family.

Tragically, the programme also revealed that little action is taken when older boys sexually abuse older girls. Police forces in England and Wales record that from 2013 to 2017 at least 225 alleged rapes committed by under-18-year-olds took place on school premises. Last year, they recorded at least 7,866 sexual assaults by pupils on pupils. But in 74 per cent of cases, the police took no further action.

Schools, Panorama disclosed, do not have standardised policies and procedures for dealing with pupil-on-pupil sexual offences. Nor are the topics of consent and relationships on the national curriculum.

The challenges facing young people – the expectation to send sexual selfies to prove their love; the cyber-slagging when they do, the cyber-bullying when they don’t – are difficult for the older generation to imagine.

It is, though, the adult world that must do more to protect the victim and prosecute the offenders. Children must be seen and heard.

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