Broadcasting live from Moscow, Radio Sputnik interviewed Mary Sharpe, our Chief Executive Officer for a response to the investigation by BBC Panorama about the huge rise in child-on-child sexual abuse. The number of reported sexual offences by under-18s on other under-18s in England and Wales rose by 71% from 4,603 in 2013-14 to 7,866 in 2016-17, according to figures from a Freedom of Information request. The number of reported rapes among under-18s rose 46% from 1,521 to 2,223 over the same period, according to 32 police forces that supplied a breakdown of figures. Reports of sexual offences on schools premises also increased from 386 in 2013-14 to 922 in 2016-17, according to 31 police forces – including 225 rapes on school grounds over the four years.

This development parallels a similar increase in Scotland. Recent statistics indicate that almost a quarter of cyber-enabled crime had a victim and perpetrator who were both under 16 in 2016-17. Three percent of these offences were committed by under 13 year olds which by extrapolation means that around 130 perpetrators were that young. This is up from 29 in the 2013/14 period.

Simon Bailey, the national police chief lead for child protection, said: “We are dealing unequivocally with the tip of the iceberg … we are seeing an increasing number of reports, we are seeing significant examples of harmful sexual behaviour and the lives of young people blighted and traumatically affected by sexual abuse.”

Mary commented on the impact of internet pornography on children who now have such easy access to it via smartphones and tablets. She was able to draw on information picked up at the conference she had just participated in with the Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health in Utah, US. For instance that “nine out of ten rapists admit to using pornography on a regular basis”.

Internet pornography is emerging as a new form of addiction in neuroscience and social science research, and in clinical practice. Experts regard young perpetrators as victims as much as the victims themselves. Education about the impact of internet pornography is necessary for parents, school leaders, teachers and of course children so that they can better navigate the technology and pornography-saturated environment. Listen below for the full interview (11 mins. 22).

A shortened version of the interview is available from Radio Sputnik’s Sound cloud feed here.