Hundreds of children sexually abused

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CHILDREN as young as five have been subjected to horrific sex attacks including rape, incest and gross indecency, a children’s charity has revealed.

Shocking figures reveal 120 youngsters aged five to 11 were subjected to the assaults in the Northumbria Police force area in just one year, while 21 children, all under the age of four, were also the victims of sex offences.

In total during 2009/10, 552 sex offences against children were reported to Northumbria Police, according to the NSPCC.

One hundred youngsters under the age of 18 were also accused of committing child sex offences.

The NSPCC, which obtained the figures under the Freedom of Information Act, today expressed grave concerns that this is just the tip of the ice-berg.

Pat Buckley, regional service manager, said: “Thousands of people come forward every year to report sex offences against children but many of the victims are too young to ask for help.Others are too scared to tell anyone about their suffering until years later.

“The figures are a real concern and we need to find ways to help victims and change the behaviour of young offenders.

“One hundred suspects in these cases in Northumbria were under 18. It’s clear we need more services that address the harmful sexual behaviour of young people, as well as adult offenders.

“We urge everyone to be vigilant and report any concerns they have about a child.”

One Sunderland mum, whose eight-year-old son was left traumatised after a sex assault by a stranger, said: “The figures don’t surprise me. In fact. I’m sure a lot of cases go unreported and we never get to hear about them. More needs to be done to protect our children.”

Superintendent Steve Wade, of Northumbria Police’s Public Protection Unit, said: “We take every reported allegation of sexual abuse against a child or young person extremely seriously.

“We conduct thorough investigations using specialist staff and work hand in hand with the NSPCC and other partner agencies to deliver training in communities to safeguard children and young people to help protect them.

“These incidents are dealt with in a highly confidential and sensitive way, with the welfare and safety of the young people being of paramount importance.

“Police, health and social services departments are working closely with young people to encourage the reporting of these types of incidents and this has led to an increase in the number of reported incidents.”