A report by the Children’s Commissioner has identified widespread sexual abuse of teenage girls in the UK.
The report by the government agency, which began its investigation in 2010, found that gangs and groups were responsible for the raping of thousands of young women and called for urgent action to address the problem.
It warned that it has been “rare to identify cases of child sexual exploitation where the use of technology has not been a factor” with pornography is also regularly seen as a factor contributing to abuse.
The interim report, published today, studied abuse of children over 11, or those who had reached puberty. A survey of police forces and local authorities across the UK found that in the past 14 months, 2,409 children were victims of sexual exploitation. There were 1,514 perpetrators.
David Cameron recently agreed to establish several reviews into sexual abuse at a children’s home in North Wales after Lord McAlpine, the former Conservative Treasurer, was wrongly accused of being a paedophile.
The Children’s Commissioner also highlights the “conspiracy of silence” which allowed Savile to “rape children with impunity”. However, it adds that it is “too easy to simply blame the BBC” as the problem was far more widespread.
Official criminal records were judged to be “undercounting” sexual offences against children with the commissioner estimating that “at least 16,500 children were identified as being at risk of child sexual exploitation during one year”.
The report concludes: “The use of mobile phones, social networking sites and other forms of technology are highlighted in the report as channels through which perpetrators groom, bully and pursue victims.”
The findings also contain figures that show about a third of men convicted of sexually exploiting children were of “Asian” origin.
Sue Berelowitz, the Deputy Children’s Commissioner, insisted the “model” of Asian men abusing white teenage girls was only one among a wide range of unacceptable behaviour.
She added: “When people focus on that one model they are unfortunately not identifying all victims because they think that all victims are white girls.” The Deputy Children’s Commissioner, supported by a panel of experts, is due to make her final recommendations in the autumn of 2013.