Child sexual abuse cases are 'through the roof' in Warwickshire - The Leamington Observer

Child sexual abuse cases are 'through the roof' in Warwickshire

ROCKETING cases of sexual abuse in Warwickshire due to covid are ‘stealing children’s livelihoods’, says a charity CEO.

Neil Henderson, the CEO of Warwick-based charity Safeline has revealed levels of child abuse are ‘through the roof’.

The charity says demand for its services, which provide emotional support to victims of sexual abuse in Warwickshire, has doubled to just over 100 in the last six months.

It says most referrals relate to rape incidents, with victims as young as four years old. Most perpetrators are ‘trusted’ adults.

It also reports over a 20 per cent rise in cases of victims aged 17 and under, forcing waiting lists to be extended from two to three months.

Mr Henderson told the Observer: “Lockdown has had a massive impact. The levels are through the roof and the numbers just fill us with dread.

“Over the last six months we have provided specialist, one-to-one support to 70 children and we have an additional 35 children now waiting for support, 105 and growing, we received five new referrals last week.

“It’s happening massively, kids’ whole livelihoods are being stolen as we speak. Usually cases are detected through schools and through social services. Children as young as four mentioning ‘secrets’ or pain down below. But with covid impacting these services, it’s going undetected and it’s happening under our noses.

“I want people to know because we need to be vigilant and do the right thing. There are still services available and not everybody knows that.”

Crime and child protection organisations say a lack of safeguards is among a number of factors increasing vulnerability caused by Covid, including its impact on mental and emotional health.

Others include more children exposed to online grooming, and pandemic pressures on parents and carers leading to increased risks of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse.

Mr Henderson added the charity had been adapting to the increased demand, and referrals, particularly from schools across the county, had gown by nearly half.

He said: “The impact of Covid will be felt for a long-time. The combined impact of increased child vulnerability, increased pressures on parents or carers and reduced safeguards, increases the potential for new and recurring abuse in all forms.

“Safeline delivers effective outcomes for children and young people who need support now and we guarantee continuity of service throughout the pandemic.”

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