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Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week

View profile for Grace Monteith
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As we have readjusted to a new way of life during the current COVID-19 lockdown, those of us who work with and on behalf of victims of abuse are again becoming  aware that many children may be especially vulnerable at this challenging time.


In the first lockdown in 2020, the National Crime Agency suggested there were at least 300,000 individuals in the UK who might pose a sexual threat to children, either online or through physical abuse. Online chat activity indicated that some offenders were discussing opportunities to exploit the initial Covid-19 restrictions in order to abuse children.


In addition, it was recognised that the  significant social and financial pressures associated with quarantine could  impact upon the behaviour of individuals and potentially result in more children being at risk.


Self-isolation and social distancing meant that child victims of sexual abuse were not being seen as regularly by their neighbours, teachers or other family members, and subsequently their protection risks were mounting. It was clear that after the UK entered into its lockdown on 23rd March 2020, there was an increase in demand for ChildLine and NSPCC helplines.


The National Crime Agency (NCA) usually arrest more than 500 child abuse offenders each month and safeguard over 700 children. In the first lockdown there was a decrease in the reporting of cases by professionals, as a result of the school closures and restricted access to social workers.


There are now very real concerns that the 2021 lockdown, occurring in the winter months when outdoor access may be more challenging for many children, could see a recurrence of the problems identified last year.


In this year's 'Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week' it is important that we all remain vigilant to signs of abuse. While Covid-19 continues to change the way we live and work, we must all be aware of the potential risks to the safety of children and seek appropriate help and guidance where there are concerns.