TEN children each month on Wearside are being subjected to horrific sexual crimes.
Figures obtained by the Echo show 234 youngsters in Sunderland have been victims of sex offences in the past two years, with 38 of them aged 10 or younger.
Twelve of the children targeted were under the age of five.
Some of the crimes include rape, sexual assault and people who engaged in sexual activity in front of a child.
The information, released to the Echo after a Freedom of Information request to Northumbria Police, showed that the remaining 197 on the list were aged between 11 and 17.
In 2010, 127 crimes were recorded by the police and in 2011 the figure was 107.
But experts also believe that these figures could only be part of the picture as many children who suffer abuse do not tell anyone what has happened to them.
A spokesman from the NSPCC said: “These figures show a distressing level of offences committed against often very young and helpless children, who may not understand what is happening and are unable to ask for help. We know from studies that this is likely to be the tip of the iceberg.
“Many children who suffer sexual abuse do not tell anyone what has happened to them. It is therefore vital that we all play a part in giving children the protection they need.
“Any adult who is worried about someone’s behaviour towards a child or young person can report their concerns to police or social services or contact the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000.
“Our trained counsellors are available 24 hours a day to talk through your concerns, even if you aren’t certain something is wrong.”
Anne Cuthill, 46, was just four years old when she was abused by serial paedophile Brian Jeffries, who was recently jailed for three-and-a-half years.
She opened her heart to the Echo and waived her right to anonymity in the hope that other victims of child abusers would find courage in her words.
She said: “When he got sentenced the feeling was unbelievable, I felt so at peace.
“I feel now that I can start the healing process but this will never leave the victims. It will never leave me or the other women.
“I now feel this is finally over as best as it possibly can be as it will never leave my head. It is in my memory.
“I hope this will encourage anyone who has been through what I have to have the strength to come forward.”
Children’s charity Barnardos recently released a report on budget cuts where it said services which protect children being exploited are being cut.
But it did also say that the North East was bucking the trend, with councils across the region taking more interest in the issue.