The scale and nature of child sexual abuse:

review of evidence 


By Kairika Karsna and Professor Liz Kelly

Our latest report, published in June 2021, finds far more children experience sexual abuse than are currently being protected and the latest data suggests the gap between recorded experiences and experiences of abuse could be widening. In 2019/20, England saw the largest drop in child protection plans for sexual abuse in 18 years – and following eight years of increased recording of child sexual abuse offences by police, there was a levelling off in 2019/20, with 87,992 identifiable CSA offences recorded.

The CSA Centre estimates that at least 15% of girls and 5% of boys experience child sexual abuse before the age of 16. The majority of child sexual abuse is hidden; never reported or uncovered by an official agency. Sadly, while current research and administrative data reveals some trends, it also leaves many questions.

Read the scale and nature report 2021 (PDF, 4.1MB)

Read the Welsh summary of the scale and nature report 2021 (PDF, 1MB)

Child sexual abuse is complex. To deal with such a pervasive and destructive problem, everyone must work together. Many different professionals play a role in preventing, identifying, and responding to this abuse, and in supporting children, but there is a pressing need for dedicated training and support for professionals across all agencies. We need to empower them with tailored knowledge and confidence to protect children from sexual abuse. Furthermore, we are renewing our call for a national prevalence study of child sexual abuse - dedicated to capturing all forms and contexts of child sexual abuse– to properly capture the full scale of sexual abuse.


Explore our infographics presenting key data and latest trends in identification and response to child sexual abuse.

Read our infographics



Scale and nature report 2019

This report compiles an analysis of the scale and nature of child sexual abuse across England and Wales using official and agency data from 2017/8.

Download the scale and nature report (PDF, 3.8 MB)

Scoping report

Written by Professor Liz Kelly of London Metropolitan University with Kairika Karsna, and informed by two expert working groups, this report sought to bring together evidence on the scale and nature of child sexual abuse into one single document. Combining evidence from surveys and agency records, as well as identifying gaps and recommendations on how to improve data, this report has been widely used in practice and policy development.

This report was first published in 2017 and revised in August 2018.

Scoping report (PDF, 2.4 MB)