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“I thought I was the only one. The only one in the world”

The Office of the Children’s Commissioner’s Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation In Gangs and Groups Interim Report

This report, coming at the end of the first year of this Inquiry into the sexual exploitation of children in gangs and groups, has uncovered for the first time the extent to which children in England are being sexually exploited. We publish the number of known victims over a set period of time but can say with certainty that our figures are an undercounting of the true scale of this form of abuse. We know that because, although many agencies and organisations responded to our request for information and data, there were some notable gaps, with a few local authorities failing to do so. Furthermore, we know that children are sexually exploited in contexts other than in gangs and groups, including by lone perpetrators. Evidence about those children is not included in this report.

During the course of this Inquiry we have heard from young people who have been raped in the most unbearable ways. These have included children who have been abducted, trafficked, beaten and threatened after being drawn into a web of sexual violence by promises of love and others who have suffered in silence for years as they are casually and routinely raped by the boys in their neighbourhoods – as they come out of school, as they walk to the shops, as they play in their local park.

The vast majority of the perpetrators of this terrible crime are male. They range in age from as young as fourteen to old men. They come from all ethnic groups and so do their victims – contrary to what some may wish to believe. The failure of agencies to recognise this means that too many child victims are not getting the protection and support they so desperately need.