Oxford Sexual Abuse and Rape Crisis Centre welcomes today's news that seven sex offenders have been successfully prosecuted as a result of Operation Bullfinch.
The details of this case are undeniably shocking but it is sadly not the first of its kind and nor is it likely to be the last. The case serves as a reminder that the sexual abuse of children and young people – particularly girls and young women - is endemic in today’s society. Our work supporting women and girls who have experienced sexual violence in Oxfordshire also tells us this is a long term, deep rooted problem.
The Office of the Children's Commissioner found that last year alone over 2,000 children in the UK were subjected to sexual exploitation and at least 16,500 were identified as being at risk of experiencing it. At the same time, the report acknowledged that the true numbers were likely to be much higher.
These shocking figures along with the details of the Bullfinch case and others like it, demonstrate that much more must be done to prevent the sexual abuse of girls and women and support them when it does take place. Sadly, specialist services to support those who have experienced sexual exploitation and abuse are rare and underfunded. More resources are urgently required to ensure appropriate services – like Rape Crisis Centres – can deliver the support needed to those who have experienced sexual violence.
This case also reinforces the ongoing need for initiatives that aim to prevent abuse from happening in the first place. We believe this should start in schools, which have a critical role to play in working in partnership with their local community to both help children and young people develop positive attitudes and behaviours around relationships and sex and to protect them. Compulsory sex and relationships education and training of teachers in safeguarding will go a long way to preventing sexual abuse and protecting children.
We warmly encourage any woman or girl whose life has been affected by sexual abuse or violence of any kind to contact our centre for support. We also support the family members, friends or other supporters of survivors. Our helpline, email support and weekly support groups provide confidential, independent and specialist support. Call 0800 783 6294, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.oxfordrapecrisis.net.