Police in Northern Ireland are dealing with hundreds of sexual offences against young children, according to figures provided to the NSPCC.
Figures received from the PSNI reveal that in 2018/19 almost a quarter (23%) – 472 – of all recorded sexual offences against under 18s involved children aged four to eight.
In total, there were 2,036 recorded sexual offences against under 18s in Northern Ireland during 2018/19, the figures show.
Also last year, hundreds of children from across the UK aged under 11 contacted the NSPCC’s Childline service about sexual abuse.
A young girl who contacted Childline said: “I want to know if something that happened to me was wrong. The other day my older brother’s friend kissed me and touched me. He asked me to do other things but I said no and he got angry with me.
“I feel awful and like what happened was all my fault. My friends have all told me that it’s fine but I’m so confused. Is this normal?”
In response, the NSPCC is this week relaunching its Talk PANTS campaign, which helps parents with children aged eight and under to have vital conversations about staying safe from sexual abuse.
The charity aims to help parents find the right words to talk to their children about staying safe. The NSPCC is encouraging parents to donate to the charity to get the PANTS activity pack and help protect a generation of children from abuse.
Donna-Marie Wright, a mum to seven children, is a passionate supporter of the campaign.
She said: “I think Talk PANTS is brilliant. Having been abused myself between the ages of seven and 18, I believe it’s essential that all parents talk to their children about staying safe from sexual abuse.
“Many parents may worry that talking to their children about this sensitive subject will be scary and confusing but the PANTS activities help you find the right words.
“There is no mention of sex or abuse and when I’ve used them with my own young children, I’ve found the resources to be incredibly useful.”
Margaret Gallagher, who delivers the PANTS campaign to groups across the Province, said: “It is very concerning that the number of recorded sexual offences against young children is at such a high level and it is vital we do more to help them stay safe from sexual abuse.
“That is why Talk PANTS is such an important tool for parents as it enables them to have vital conversations with their child in an age appropriate way.”