Shock at 20% rise in sex crimes against under-10s reported to PSNI
New figures show a significant increase in the number of reported primary school age victims of sexual abuse.
The PSNI recorded 377 child sex crimes against under-10s last year – an almost 20% rise on the previous year's figure of 316.
The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) said it was continuing its bid to help protect children from sexual abuse before it can begin by rerunning its 'underwear rule' campaign which provides parents of children aged five to 11 with the resources to talk to them about staying safe from sexual abuse in an age-appropriate way.
NSPCC Northern Ireland regional head Neil Anderson said almost half of parents had not spoken to their children about the issue.
Mr Anderson said: "Whilst some of the increase will be down to an increase in reporting due to the Jimmy Savile scandal, sexual abuse continues to be a terrible scar on our society which won't heal by itself. Our campaign has started to make inroads in giving children the protection they need but there is obviously still a long way to go. The police figures are disturbing, particularly as many of the victims are so young and therefore less likely to be able to understand they are being abused and be able to speak out.
"This highlights the urgent need to tackle this problem from an early age, and parents and carers have asked us for support in ensuring their children are armed with the knowledge to recognise the wrong kind of behaviour and keep themselves safe".
Last year in Northern Ireland, 1,058 sexual offences against under-18s were reported to the PSNI.
The majority of these offences, which included rape, were committed against children of secondary school age, but many of the victims were younger.
Mr Anderson added: "It's a startling fact that most children are abused by someone they know, so it's vital that we communicate to children that it's not right for anyone to touch the places that are private to them, no matter who they are.
"The underwear rule is a vital part of this process and is already striking a chord with some parents, but we would urge more to get involved."