More than one in 10 children who contact ChildLine to report or discuss fears over sexual abuse are primary school age, according to figures released by ChildLine.
Of the callers to the 24-hour confidential helpline who were counselled about sexual abuse, some 11 per cent of those who gave their age were 11 or younger, the charity said.
A total of 12,431 young people had counselling sessions with the charity’s round-the-clock helpline last year, where the main concern was sexual abuse.
Of those, 9,100 gave their age, with 11 per cent (1,020) revealed to be aged 11 or under.
For more than 40 per cent of them their call to ChildLine was the first time they had ever told anyone what had happened.
According to the charity, which provides a 24-hour confidential helpline for children, those under 12 who suffer sexual abuse are three times as likely not to have told anyone about it before speaking to ChildLine, compared with other abuse.
In counselling sessions about sexual abuse with children aged 11 and under, of those who disclosed whether they had told anyone about their concerns, 42 per cent said they had not.
This figure compared to 15 per cent for counselling sessions about physical abuse; 13 per cent for sessions about neglect; and counselling sessions about emotional abuse where nine per cent said they had not previously told anyone before contacting ChildLine.
The figures, covering ChildLine’s 2012-13 (April-March) year, are hoped to highlight the risks of abuse to the very young as part of campaigns to raise awareness.
The charity said the statistics also reveal that in many cases, young people suffering sexual abuse know their offender.
Of the 9,100 who gave their age, 85 per cent told ChildLine they knew who the perpetrator was, while just six per cent said that person was a stranger.
The figures are hoped to highlight risks to the very young – the NSPCC is currently carrying out its Underwear Rule campaign in a bid to help parents talk to their children about keeping them safe from abuse.
Sue Minto, head of ChildLine, said: “It’s a sad reflection on society that children of primary school age are being abused in this way but it’s a reality we have to face and prepare for.”