The number of children pleading for help to escape sexual abusers spiralled during the lockdown, a charity has claimed.
And it’s feared the true number of victims could be even higher because schools were unable to provide a safe place for children to share their ordeals while they were closed.
Women’s Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre (Wrasac) runs a specialist service for young people, which is often a place guidance teachers will turn to during the school.
Though it is still to formalise the numbers, the charity has claimed that more youths than ever before are coming forward for help.
Kristina Piggott said: “At present we have not seen an increase in referrals to our service as yet but we do believe once schools are fully back there may be an increase in disclosure to school staff.
“For many people during lockdown having restricted access to support networks – same as adults in this respect – has been extremely difficult and can mean being stuck at home either with someone abusive or being in unsupportive households.
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“We believe a significant barrier for young people has been that they have had limited contact with the outside world and not had the same opportunity to disclose to guidance teachers or other significant adults and this may be part of why we have not seen an increase in referrals for support as yet.
“This is very much an ongoing issue and I don’t think we’ve seen the extent of the harm related to this yet.”
There are further concerns that young people have been more likely to have suffered abuse of some kind online during lockdown.
She added: “Another impact on young people that is being brought to our attention is online pressure not just in terms of sexual violence but how gender inequality is manifesting online.
“Young people have highlighted to us they have suffered more from intrusive thoughts about the abuse due to being less busy and spending more time alone at home during lockdown which has given them more time to think about things and bring distressing memories to the surface.
“We will continue supporting any young person who requires our support and will do our best to offer that support in a safe and person-centred way. “