LETTER:No over-reaction on child sexual abuse

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The Independent Online
From Mr Christopher Brown

Sir: I would like to address a number of points, of both accuracy and substance, which are raised in Rosie Waterhouse's article "Crying wolf puts more kids at risk" (15 June).

1. By using the term "sexual interference" the NSPCC is drawing attention to a range of sexually exploitative adult behaviours experienced by children. In our survey all the behaviours that respondents were asked about constituted criminal offences.

2. The NSPCC has neither stated nor suggested that the "sexual abuse of children is reaching epidemic proportions". We have said, however, that the level of child sexual interference is unacceptable.

3. While the finding of a prevalence rate of 16 per cent is of serious concern, it is in fact lower than in some similar studies. This is precisely because we were careful in the definitions used, and rigorous in the methodology of the survey.

4. The NSPCC has called for more resources, not as the article states, for "child protection" but for a broader range of support services for vulnerable families.

5. It would have been prudent for the health minister to have enquired about the methodology used in the survey before wrongly stating that the findings are "untested statistics". The full research report, including findings and methodology, will be published later this year.

6. We have never suggested that indecent exposure is of the same level of seriousness as anal or genital intercourse. It needs to be recognised, however, that for some children (and indeed some adults) the experience of indecent exposure is frightening and profoundly distressing and a criminal offence.

Children have the right to be protected from any form of sexual interference, no matter how serious it is considered to be, or what label it is given. Most parents would rightly be concerned if a man exposed himself to their son or daughter, and many would take action immediately to explain the experience to their child or contact the police to catch the offender. We will not prevent the sexual exploitation of children by ignoring or minimising their experiences.

Yours faithfully,

CHRISTOPHER BROWN

Director and Chief Executive

NSPCC

London, EC2

16 June

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