Ten per cent of UK children ‘suffer abuse’

Research published has suggests one million children fall victim to child abuse in Britain every year.

A study published in the Lancet reveals this statistic is prevalent across high-income countries. It means in Britain around one million children are maltreated – either through neglect or sexual, emotional or physical abuse.

The University College London study found that 15 per cent of girls and five per cent of boys have been exposed to some form of sexual abuse by the time they are 18.

It also suggested five to ten per cent of girls and one to five per cent of boys are exposed to penetrative sexual abuse. Sexual abuse is “most often perpetrated by other family members [not parents] or acquaintances”.

The study warns abuse can have damaging effects on the victims’ lives.

“More attention needs to be paid to the potentially different needs of boys and girls who are maltreated,” the study’s authors conclude.

“Although classrooms and neighbourhoods are disrupted more by deviant behaviour of boys than of girls, research shows that maltreatment doubles a girl’s risk of being arrested for a violent crime and increases risk for subsequent alcohol and drug problems, with implications for her children.”

In separate research published today by the same team in the Lancet the researchers warn “serious shortfalls” exist in the reporting of maltreatment by professional in all sectors.

A reluctance among professionals to report cases until they are completely certain is blamed for the failure – but widespread doubts as to whether the benefits of reporting child abuse to appropriate agencies outweigh the harms also contributes.

Public sentiment is heightened to these concerns in the wake of the Baby P case, in which a toddler died as a result of child abuse despite being visited by local authority professionals over 60 times.