AROUND two child rape cases are recorded by Cumbria’s police force every week – but too few survivors will see justice, our investigation has found.

Childhood rape is devastating lives across Cumbria, but a lack of specialist support leaves many traumatised victims feeling unable to bring their abusers to justice, experts say.

Just last year, Cumbria Constabulary tackled 159 allegations of child rape – and more than half involved youngsters who were 13 or under when the offence was allegedly committed.

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Those reports – some of which may relate to historic abuse - are among 1,185 logged by the force over a decade.

Our analysis of Home Office figures found child rape reports have quadrupled since 2012-13, when comparable records began. That year, 38 cases were investigated.

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Police and charities suggest improved recording methods, increased confidence in reporting and heightened awareness of child abuse may have contributed to the stark rise.

However, the NSPCC said the increase is 'highly concerning', as is the charge rate for the offence.

Just eight of 128 cases closed in 2021-22 resulted in a charge or summons to court, while more than three-quarters of investigations were dropped due to difficulties gathering evidence.

In nearly 60 per cent of cases, victims withdrew support for the investigations, prompting calls on the Government to invest more in specialist support.

The Lucy Faithfull Foundation said the criminal justice process could be overwhelming and invasive – and coupled with trauma, stigma and fear, could be contributing to victims retracting abuse disclosures.

The charity, dedicated to preventing child sexual abuse, joined the NSPCC and Barnardo’s in calling for better support for young rape victims.

Cumbria Constabulary employ specialist officers to support child victims and their families during an investigation and throughout the judicial process.

But Detective Chief Inspector James Yallop said there were many reasons why not all victims felt able to attend court.

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DCI Yallop said rape crimes can be complex to investigate, especially in cases of historic abuse or where the offender is also a child.

However, he added, the police consider individual circumstances in every case and “will always seek justice for the victim” and look to prosecute offenders where there is sufficient evidence.

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Barnardo’s and the NSPCC have called on the Government to ensure its new Victims Bill gives child victims guaranteed access to specialist support.

Barnardo’s CEO Lynn Perry said ensuring that support must be a priority for the next Prime Minister, adding: “Children who have experienced sexual abuse often miss out on the timely, specialist support they need to recover and move towards a positive future.

“This support is especially important in empowering young victims to report these horrific crimes, and to cope during the police investigation and court case that may follow.”

Pierre Hyman, the NSPCC’s senior policy and public affairs officer said improved reporting methods may have contributed to the 'highly concerning' rise in child rape reports.

He added: “Some victims can feel so traumatised by the experience of a legal investigation and the lack of support available during this period that they feel they cannot go through with a trial.”

The charities joined police in urging victims to speak out and seek support, with Sian Meader from the Stop It Now! helpline – run by the Lucy Faithfull Foundation – urging adults to believe, support and protect children making disclosures.

A Home Office spokesman said the Government is leaving 'no stone unturned' in its efforts to prevent and pursue child sex abusers and had funded programmes and dedicated support services for survivors of sexual abuse.

Abuse can be reported by contacting the police, children’s social services teams or online via the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre.

To get confidential support about what to do if you suspect abuse, contact the Stop It Now! helpline or the NSPCC helpline.

Children can contact Childline on 0800 1111.