The number of child sex offences recorded by police in Greater Manchester rose to 3,210 last year – an average of nearly nine a day.
Shock figures obtained by the NSPCC show police recorded crimes against children that included rape, sexual assault, and sexual exploitation.
In Greater Manchester 1,022 were recorded against children aged 10 and under, while 251 of these crimes were perpetrated against children four and under, some of whom would be too young to even attend primary school.
The NSPCC believes a number of reasons could explain the dramatic increase:
l Police forces improving recording methods;
2 Survivors feeling more confident in disclosing abuse following high-profile cases; and
3 Online grooming becoming a major problem with predators reaching multiple children.
The total number of sex offences committed is unknown, as more children may not have come forward because they are frightened, embarrassed, or do not realise that they have been abused.
To cope with the numbers of children coming forward the NSPCC is calling for specialist training for police investigating online child abuse, rehabilitation for child sex offenders, and investment in early intervention services to help children recover.
NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless said: “This steep rise lays bare just how extensive this appalling crime against children has become, claiming multiple victims every hour, some of whom are yet to say their first word.
Sexual abuse can shatter a child’s life and leave them feeling ashamed, depressed, or even suicidal.
“Now, more than ever, victims need help as soon as possible to help them recover from their ordeals and go on to lead full and happy lives. Government must commit funds to early intervention that better help these children who through no fault of their own are enduring so much pain.”