Children and young people are the victims of almost 40% of all recorded rapes, according to police data released today.
Figures for England and Wales compiled by the Rape Monitoring Group show there were approximately 6,000 recorded rapes of under 16s and 10,000 rapes of adults in the year to March 2013.
This means that 37.5% of all recorded rapes in the 43 police forces of England and Wales are of children.
David Tucker, head of policy at the child protection charity NSPCC, said: “It’s appalling that nearly 40% of all rapes recorded by police are committed against children.
“These reported crimes have increased significantly by around a third in five years, which may be in part due to greater confidence about the way allegations are handled by police and that they will be fully investigated.
He warned the true scale of child sexual abuse could be even worse. “But those coming forward are still likely to be the tip of the iceberg, with many more victims out there.”
Deputy assistant commissioner Martin Hewitt, a member of the Rape Monitoring Group, said: “More victims than ever have the confidence to come forward and report, and more than ever are achieving justice in the courts. But much remains to be done.
“It is still a cause of concern to me that all the research tells us that only about 20 per cent of those who are raped or sexually assaulted report it to the police.”
Tucker said the system is improving but more action is needed. There are “encouraging signs” that the system is improving with steps being taken to make it easier for young witnesses to give evidence against sex offenders, he said.
“The Crown Prosecution Service has also introduced new guidelines, which mean allegations of this sort will be taken seriously. But this is just the start and we need to ensure improvements continue,” he said.
“Children deserve justice when they take the courageous step to report these crimes. So all allegations must be fully investigated and victims given support throughout the judicial process and beyond.”