Northern Ireland news

Quarter of child sex abuse cases involve children aged 4-8

Figures obtained by a children's charity show that a quarter of sexual offences against children last year related to those between the ages of four and eight
Seanín Graham

A LEADING charity has warned of hundreds of sexual offences being carried out on young children in Northern Ireland over the past year as it launches a new safety campaign.

The NSPCC said that its wants to equip parents on how to talk to children about "staying safe" after new police figures revealed that almost a quarter of all recorded sex abuse cases involving under-18s relate to children between the ages of four and eight.

A Freedom of Information request showed there were 2,036 recorded sexual offences dealt with by the PSNI during 2018/19.

The charity also confirmed there had been a rise in the number of calls to its helpline, Childline, from young victims of abuse.

It is relaunching its 'Talk PANTS' campaign for parents and guardians to "find the right words" to talk about the issue. The campaign pack does not mention the words sex or abuse.

Using a song, the acronym teaches children that their body belongs to them, they have a right to say no, and that they should tell an adult they trust if they're worried or upset.

First rolled out in 2013, it was previously known as 'The Underwear Rule'.

Margaret Gallagher, NSPCC interim head of safeguarding in communities, who delivers the campaign to groups across the north, said: "It is very concerning that the number of recorded sexual offences against young children is at such a high level and it is vital we do more to help them stay safe from sexual abuse. That is why Talk PANTS is such an important tool for parents as it enables them to have vital conversations with their child in an age appropriate way."

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