More than a third of rape victims are under 16, with the vast majority of that figure made up of young girls, according to new figures.
Data published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and based on statistics from 13 police forces in England and Wales, showed that in the 12 months to March last year, girls aged 10-14 were the most likely to be victims of rape. In the male category, boys aged 5-9 were the most likely to be victims of rape.
The findings emerged as the first detailed breakdown of the age and gender of victims of alleged sexual offences recorded by police were published.
There were 88,106 sexual offences recorded by the police in the year ending March 2015, the highest figure recorded since the introduction of the National Crime Recording Standard in 2002. It represents a 37 per cent increase since the year before, and an 81 per cent jump since records began.
Half of female victims of other sexual offences, such as assaults, grooming and sexual exploitation, were girls aged under 16.
Sarah Green, a manager at the End Violence Against Women Coalition, said: “[The statistics] have to be a wake-up call to the Government, to every profession working with young people and to all of us. What are we going to do about this horrific level of assault against young women and girls?
“We believe the figures show that those who commit these crimes target victims who are young and more vulnerable. Offenders have more confidence in getting away with crimes against younger women and girls.
“We have to get serious about tackling the perpetrators of this abuse and preventing assaults in the first place.”
Analysis of the Crime Survey for England and Wales published alongside the statistics showed that respondents in younger age groups were more likely to think it was acceptable at least some of the time to hit or slap their partner if they had an affair.
The ONS also said that improvements in crime recording processes by the police were thought to be the main driver behind a 23 per cent rise in the number of violence against the person offences recorded.
David Tucker, the College of Policing lead for crime and criminal justice, said: “It’s encouraging to see that improved recording practices in forces are believed to be behind the increase of recorded violent and sexual crimes.”
He added: “However, there are still too many violent and sexual crimes.
“Our research on national demand has indicated an increasing amount of time in forces is directed towards public protection and safeguarding issues.”