It is a disturbing fact that nearly a third of female rape victims in England and Wales are aged under 16. One in 10 are nine years old or under. These statistics, released by the Office for National Statistics last week, are damning evidence that something is terribly wrong about the way our society deals with sexual violence. Chillingly, the Crown Prosecution Service tells us that 13% of suspects are also children.
Victims of rape are often some of the most vulnerable members of our society. When these victims are children, their sense of helplessness is even greater. Given that only 7% of reported rapes in London are carried out by strangers, it’s likely that children know their attackers. Indeed, perpetrators of violence against children are frequently the same people who are responsible for looking after them. Children rightly fear that they will be punished for reporting abuse. Coercion is routinely masked as love.