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Scale & nature of abuse

To tackle child sexual abuse, we need to understand its causes, scope, scale, and impact. Our research establishes what we know about child sexual abuse, and what gaps still exist in our knowledge.

A comprehensive account of what we do and do not know about child sexual abuse in England & Wales

Our core Scale and nature research discovers and fills gaps in our knowledge, support organisations to improve the data they collect about child sexual abuse, and builds a better understanding of how practice in statutory services affects the level of child sexual abuse identified and recorded. Find our key publications below.

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Trends in official data

Building a better understanding of the scale and nature of child sexual abuse has been at the forefront of our work from the beginning. This report provides up to date analysis of the latest official data children’s social care, policing, criminal justice and health to help inform improvements in prevention and response.

Our latest report finds finds children are more likely than adults to be the victims of sexual offences. They are the victims in 40% of all sexual offences – including rape and sexual assault – yet make up just 20% of the population in England & Wales. 2022/23 analysis also highlights that whilst there have been small improvements, the level of child sexual abuse identified by official agencies remains broadly similar to the previous year and some elements of the response, such as numbers of children placed on child protection plans, appears to be getting worse.

Read Trends in official data
CSA Centre Infographic, which shows an illustration of an iceberg partially submerged in water. The title says 'Far more children are sexually abused than services identify'. Above the water, the graphic says '2,300 children on a child protection plan due to child sexual abuse (England)', '9,500 children seen by sexual assault referral centres (England and Wales)', '49,000 children assessed as being at risk of sexual abuse (England and Wales)', and '105,000 child sexual abuse offenses recorded by the police (England and Wales)'. Below the water, the graphic says "500,000 children are estimated to be sexually abused every year'.


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

Download and share our infographics today.


Scale and nature report

Our must-read report explores what we currently do and do not know from existing prevalence studies and official service data. It is designed to better our understanding of the scale and nature of child sexual abuse and establish gaps in our knowledge in order to improve the response.

The 2021 Scale and nature report 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. Download the full report below.

Read the report
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Improving data on child sexual abuse

Effective decision making to improve identification and responses to child sexual abuse relies on the data we use to inform it. We’ve designed a core data set guide to help organisations improve the consistency and quality of their data collection process, to build improved understanding at local, regional and national levels.

Developed with key stakeholders in statutory and voluntary services, this guide offers much-needed practical advice for organisations about the data they collect on child sexual abuse and how they should record it.


Learning about data collection from practice

Understanding how organisations identify and record child sexual abuse can have a major impact on improving our response. We worked with two organisations to see how abuse is recorded today.

As with all data collection in child sexual abuse, the better we can understand the scale and nature of abuse, the better placed we are at addressing it and implementing effective change.

Currently, most cases of child sexual abuse go unidentified for many years, meaning it will not appear in official agency data and that many victims and survivors without support. So the extent to which organisations are able to recognise and record concerns of child sexual abuse is incredibly important.


To learn about how official agency data is currently recorded, we worked with services in Wales and Greater Manchester to examine existing reporting methods. In these studies, we reviewed how these could be amended and adjusted to help professionals accurately reflect the scale of care needed.