We can all do our part to make sure we know the facts about child sexual abuse - these six points from our practitioners are important for every adult to know to help better connect with young people.

Abuse is never the fault or responsibility of a child

Adult perpetrators often use their position of power to abuse children. A child should never bear blame for this. This is at the core of our values at Barnardo’s and underpins all of the work at our services. Children who’ve experienced abuse may feel guilt, confusion and shame. They might even feel responsible for how this abuse (and talking about it) affects their family. Our workers help children to understand it's not their fault and help them to recover.

Adults who sexually abuse children come from all walks of life

You may have heard that there are certain age or ethnicity groups that show a higher propensity to commit sexual offences. The latest data from the Centre of Expertise on Child Sexual Abuse shows that 98% of convictions for child sexual abuse (CSA) offences were of men; 2% of convictions were of women. 70% of those prosecuted were of a white ethnic background and 9% of those prosecuted for a CSA offence were of a black and minority ethnic (BAME) background. 21% did not state an ethnicity.

Children won't always understand abuse - and shouldn’t be expected to

Children might find it difficult to spot abuse when it happens to them. They might not even know that what’s happened is wrong. Perpetrators often manipulate the child into believing it’s normal, a game or that it’s a secret. This is why it’s vital that adults are able to talk to children about worries they might have, better understand how child abusers operate and respond helpfully to children and young people who need someone to talk to.

All children are vulnerable to abuse

We’re not saying this to frighten you. It has to be said clearly: regardless of gender, ethnicity, background, sexuality or location, all children and young people are vulnerable to abuse. Some might be more vulnerable than others - for example, disabled children are three times more likely to be abused than others. Our services are also seeing an increase in children who have been groomed or abused by perpetrators using new technologies like live-streaming, social media, gaming and the dark web. Read our guides to online safety for more information.

Some children are more likely to be missed

Some victims of child sexual abuse are more likely to be missed out by those who are there to protect them and help them recover. They include boys, children under the age of 10, LGBTQ children and BAME children. Disabled young people are also more likely to be missed, partly due to the misconception that they’re less likely to be targeted by abusers. To add to this, some children won’t have the language or the opportunity to speak up about abuse. In some cases, those that could help a young person deem their behaviour as challenging or difficult, without investigating further to understand the cause.

We have to change our view to help to ensure better access to support for all children affected by abuse. We're calling on the Government to make sure all children  who’ve experienced sexual abuse aren’t missing out on support.

Far more children are being abused than we currently know of

Evidence from agencies tells us 1 in 6 children experience sexual abuse before their 18th birthday. While this is startling enough, we also know that this isn’t the whole picture: the level of child sexual abuse that’s self-reported in surveys is much higher than the level recorded by agencies. That means that 7 out of 8 of those experiencing child sexual abuse don’t come to the attention of police or local authorities.

This must change. All children affected by abuse should get the support they need to be made safe and start to recover.

Wondering what you can do to protect children? Read our guide on how to make sure children and young people feel comfortable with being able to talk about their worries.

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