The NSPCC is urging children and young people in Wiltshire to stay safe during the summer holidays after Wiltshire Police Force reveals evidence of an increase in reports of sexual assault during the summer months.
The reminder for children to take extra care coincides with the rape awareness and personal safety campaign in Wiltshire, supported by the children’s charity.
Previous research also shows that Wiltshire Police recorded 322 sex offences against children including rape, incest and gross indecency in 2009-10. Most reports concerned children aged 12-15 years old, however 13 victims were pre-school age.
NSPCC children’s services manager in Swindon, Jeanette Chipping, said: “Thousands of people come forward every year to report sex crimes against children. But many victims are too young to ask for help. Others are too scared to tell anyone about their suffering until years later.
“It’s vital that initiatives such as the rape awareness campaign make young people aware of what sexual abuse is, the importance of taking personal safety seriously and where to turn to for help and advice.
“More also needs to be done to address the growing climate of sexualisation in children’s lives, which encourages a view of girls as sex objects. For instance, advice about sex and healthy, positive relationships needs to be woven into the fabric of children’s lives through good quality support and advice in schools, play and youth services.
“Children and young people also need support and advice about sexual behaviour which could put them at risk, such as taking inappropriate pictures of themselves on mobile phones and posting them on the internet. Parents, schools, governments and industry all have a role to play in making sure children are not exposed to the risk of harm by viewing and copying adult sexual content.”
The ChildLine website offers advice and support designed to help young people understand what sexual abuse is. The message board also allows young people to speak to other young people in the same situation.
Alex, ChildLine’s message board host, says: “Sexual abuse can happen to anyone – boys and girls – and it’s vital that young people understand that it’s their right to say no. No one should be forcing you or pressuring you into having sex. No one has the right to do things to you that you don’t like, even your boyfriend or girlfriend. If you are being sexually abused, it’s not your fault and you’re not alone.
“Speaking up about sexual abuse is a really brave and difficult thing to do. It will take courage, but if you speak out about it, there are people who will listen to you and help you.”
Children and young people who need to talk can contact ChildLine in confidence on 0800 1111 or visit www.childline.org.uk.
In the South West, Swindon has been chosen as the location for one of the NSPCC’s service centres. Together with Bristol and Plymouth, the Swindon service centre will deliver pioneering and innovative frontline services for local children and families who need help. Local services focus on the most acute forms of abuse and the most vulnerable, highest risk children and will include work with children, young people and their carers to help them recover from sexual abuse.
With children on their summer break from school, parents are also being encouraged to look out for signs of abuse and report any concerns they might have about the welfare of a child to the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000, text 88858, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.nspcc.org.uk