REPORTS of child sexual abuse rose by a third last year.

The NSPCC said that it had made 4,677 referrals to police forces and social services across the UK – up 31 per cent on the previous year.

In Swindon, 15 calls were referred to the authorities by the charity’s workers and volunteers.

Staff on the NSPCC’s national helplines received almost 4,000 calls where they gave out advice about child sexual abuse.

Lisa Strode, a team manager at the NSPCC’s Swindon office, told BBC Wiltshire that a “greater awareness” of services like the charity’s helpline could be behind the rise in calls.

“I think the high-profile media coverage of the historical sexual abuse enquiries that we’ve had has given people more awareness of who they can talk to – and more confidence that they will be listened to and actions will be taken from what they report,” she added.

“Protecting children is absolutely everybody’s business. What we encourage is adults to really be listening out for the signs that sexual abuse is happening.

“In younger children they might be acting out some kind of play that might actually be far too advanced for their age…They might be fearful of being left with somebody.

“In older young people they might be starting to run away, they might be suddenly withdrawn, they might be aggressive for no apparent reason, they might be self-harming or they might have lots of money and there’s no explanation as to why that might be.

“It’s just really, really important that we are there to listen to the children and young people that are so precious to us.”

The NSPCC has launched a new appeal – Light Up Christmas for Children – to coincide with the release of the new figures.

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