1,078 children will be victims of Child Sexual Abuse in Sheffield and South Yorkshire in 2023, data shows
In 2023, Sheffield and Barnsley could record more child victims of sexual exploitation than Rotherham - with the number of victims in Sheffield projected to increase by 157% in just three years.
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1,078 children in South Yorkshire will be victims of Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) in 2023, according to analysis of South Yorkshire Police figures - the highest total in the last five years.
An investigation by The Star has found that if the current pace continues, Sheffield and Barnsley will record over 300 individual child victims of sexual exploitation this year, more than any total recorded in a South Yorkshire authority since 2018.
The eye-opening figures, obtained from South Yorkshire Police through a Freedom of Information Request, have sparked real concern with abuse survivor and campaigner, Sammy Woodhouse, whose whistleblowing helped reveal the extent of the Rotherham CSE Scandal in 2013.
Sammy told The Star: "People aren't doing enough. These kids are our future. If we don't look after them, who will?
"Because of how much attention Rotherham has had, it is known as the exploitation capital of the UK. But if you stuck me or others in Sheffield or other towns they would get the same attention. It is happening everywhere and it isn't taken seriously."
In the first six months of 2023, Sheffield recorded 153 individual victims of Child Sexual Exploitation. In the last five years, the highest total in a calendar year was 257 victims in 2018. Since then Sheffield hasn't recorded more than 175 child victims in a year.
The number of victims in the Steel City will rise by 157 per cent from the total seen in 2020 if the current pace continues. The data also reveals that the total number of recorded victims has been consistently increasing year-on-year since 2020.
Now 38, Sammy has been at the forefront of campaigns and activism for 12 years, hoping to effect change to how CSE and Child Criminal Exploitation (CCE) are effectively dealt with and is certain exploitation is rising in South Yorkshire.
She said: "I think this is happening and it is the norm now. When things get reported it needs to be acted on. I don't think enough people are going to prison for this."
Sammy said the skyrocketing figures in 2023 could not be solely due to increased reporting.
"I think it's getting worse," she said, "We still have a long way to go and, for me, it's frustrating."
Detective Chief Inspector Gary Magnay, Child Sexual Exploitation lead for South Yorkshire Police, said: “Our approach to safeguarding children and investigating reports of exploitation has advanced beyond recognition since the Jay Report in 2014.
"We now operate with specialist multi-agency teams in each district of South Yorkshire, working with local authorities, support agencies and charities. Officers in these teams lead targeted police activity, direct investigations, identify vulnerable children and young people, and crucially support and safeguard victims and survivors.
“There has been an increase in the number of reported incidents of potential child exploitation from 2018 to 2023. A significant proportion of the increase can be attributed to more accurate data recording, a rise in public trust and confidence in us leading to more engagement with victims and the public, and the deployment of specialist teams to identify and safeguard those potential victims of exploitation.
“While on the surface it may look like a cause for concern, we view this increase as a positive outcome of our targeted actions. For example our dedicated child exploitation campaign, which launched earlier this year and is supported by victims and survivors, aimed to boost public awareness of the signs of child exploitation and has successfully resulted in increased reporting.
“Reporting concerns for a child to the police means we can investigate, assess the risk early and implement appropriate safeguard measures to prevent exploitation before it happens. If you are concerned about a child you know and suspect they may be being exploited, please report to us so we can help. Even the smallest suspicion could mean they are at risk. And, if you think you are being exploited, please know it is not your fault. It is only ever the offender who is to blame. Please report to us so we can help keep you safe.”
Serious concern for Barnsley
Barnsley recorded more victims over the first six months of the year than anywhere else in the region. Current projections suggest 320 children will be victims of Child Sexual Exploitation by the end of the year - a nauseating 237 per cent increase on 2020.
It is the latest step in what has been a very concerning trend for the town. 95 victims of Child Sexual Exploitation were recorded in 2020, this rose to 136 in 2021 and then 188 in 2022.
If current projections come to fruition, Barnsley will have more victims (104) per 100,000 people than anywhere else in South Yorkshire.
Doncaster and Rotherham
The eye-opening figures from Sheffield and Barnsley are only the tip of the South Yorkshire iceberg. Both Rotherham and Doncaster are also seeing increases in recorded CSE victims.
Rotherham became synoymous with Child Sexual Exploitation after the explosive revelations made by The Times in the early-mid 2010s. The town recorded 131 child victims in the opening two quarters of this year, and the projected total of 262 would be the second highest seen in the last five years - and would be a 40 per cent increase on 2021.
When broken down by population, Rotherham records 98 victims per 100,000 people - more than both Sheffield and Doncaster.
However, Doncaster has previously returned the lowest number of child victims in 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022, and whilst this looks set to continue, the city is also looking at an enormous increase.
Current projections suggest the city will record 190 child victims of CSE in 2023. This is up 179 per cent on 2020 - the second largest increase in South Yorkshire.
Sammy Woodhouse demanded action from Suella Braverman in April
The UK does not have definitions of Child Sexual Exploitation and Child Criminal Exploitation in law - meaning it is up to police forces to define and police it how they see fit. This can lead to differing records, data and results across force areas.
Sammy has been campaigning for this to change. She has urged numerous government ministers to bring definitions into law - even making the demand directly to then Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, in April 2023.
Ms Braverman visited Sammy's home constituency of Rother Valley to met with her and Alexander Stafford MP. It was here and in subsequent communications that Ms Braverman was told of the need for these legal definitions.
Sammy said: "Adopting a definition might not solve this, but it's a step in the right direction."
The Home Office said it was "firmly committed" to tackling all forms of child sexual abuse.
In a statement provided before Ms Braverman was sacked as Home Secretary, a spokesperson added: “We are committed to intervening as early as possible to prevent vulnerable children and young people from experiencing sexual abuse and exploitation.
“Our Child Sexual Exploitation Police Taskforce are providing expert, on the ground, support for forces investigating child sexual abuse, with a particular focus on complex and organised exploitation. We are also providing £6.5 million this year for the Tackling Organised Exploitation programme, which will ensure police can effectively uncover and prosecute exploitation.”