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1,500 child sex abuse cases reported every year in Northern Ireland with a victim targeted every six hours

By Angela Rainey

Published 09/03/2016

Neil Anderson of NSPCC
Neil Anderson of NSPCC

The number of child sex offences reported to police here topped 1,500 last year.

On average, paedophiles abuse a child every six hours, with a hike in the number of victims aged 11 and under.

The figures came from the NSPCC, which warned they could be the tip of the iceberg.

In total, 1,516 incidents, including crimes such as rape and sexual assault, were reported last year. More than a quarter were committed against children aged 11 and under, with girls three times more likely to be targeted.

The NSPCC warned the true scale could be greater as many were afraid to speak up.

Neil Anderson, the NSPCC's head of service, added: "This is deeply worrying and shows what a rampant problem this is. The statistic that four children are being abused every day here is an appalling one, and shows swift action must be taken.

"Sexual abuse can shatter a child's mental health. The cruelty can leave them anxious, depressed, and even suicidal. That is why it is crucial that every child who has endured abuse gets timely, thorough help so that they can learn how to handle disturbing emotions and behaviours.

"Our It's Time campaign demands that the Government makes the mental health of abused children a priority."

The charity said there had been a 53% increase in recorded offences over the past three years.

It added this could be down to an increased willingness to come forward following high-profile cases, coupled with better recording methods and greater awareness.

The It's Time campaign is calling on the Assembly to increase funding for support services for children who have suffered abuse, and ring-fence money for these survivors.

A woman from Craigavon who suffered at the hands of a paedophile before an intervention by the NSPCC welcomed the initiative.

"After I saw my abuse for what it was and reported my abuser, it felt like my whole world was falling apart," she said. "I was filled with anxiety and I was in such a dark place that I couldn't see any way out of it.

"The treatment I got at the NSPCC gave me the opportunity to offload and the skills I needed to deal with the situation.

"Even now when I feel like I can't cope, I remember the things that I learned there. I used to think that my experience of abuse was all that I was, but now it's just a part of my history."

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