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New reports of historic sex abuse in England
Newcastle and Consett saw the most reports of historic abuse in 2014, amid thousands across the region since Savile was exposed as a paedophile
Thousands of victims of sexual abuse have reported attacks from their childhood in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal, The Chronicle can reveal.
In the years following the revelation that the late DJ Jimmy Savile was a serial sex predator, more than 2,000 people in the North East have shared their own stories of historic sexual abuse with police.
Many felt unable to report what happened to them at the time due to a fear of not being believed.
But while the recent scandal has encouraged them to finally come forward, it has also forced them to revisit long-buried feelings, according to Tyneside sexual abuse counsellors.
Figures revealed by Freedom of Information requests to Durham Constabulary and Northumbria Police show a steady increase in victims of historic abuse coming forward over the last five years, with both Durham and Northumbria recording a peak of more than 300 reports each this year.
Reports were most prominent in Newcastle and in Consett in County Durham.
Just three people in Consett reported a case of historic sexual abuse in 2011 - the year before the Jimmy Savile scandal was exposed - but 190 reports were made between January and September in 2014.
In Newcastle, 49 people came forward with reports of the abuse in 2011, compared to 124 this year.
Savile was exposed as a serial paedophile in 2012, with hundreds of his victims coming forward. Operation Yewtree was set up to probe decades of attacks, and Dave Lee Travis and Rolf Harris are among the other famous names to appear in court over historic sexual abuse cases.
Sue Pearce of Rape Crisis Tynesideand Northumberland said the figures are in line with a strong increase in cases of historic sexual abuse seen nationwide.
The increase has come mainly from sexual abuse suffered as children by women who are now adults, she said, with some perpetrators members of their own families.
She said: “There definitely has been more, particularly from older women who have thought, ‘There’s a chance I might get believed.’
“We’ve always had a high percentage of people come in where it’s something that’s happened in childhood but we’ve noticed there have been more women who want to report. Before we got very few court cases about historic sexual abuse.”
She said many victims were haunted by thoughts of how their lives might have been different if not blighted by abuse - or whether their attacker could have struck again.
“I would compare it to a grieving process of sometimes looking back and thinking ‘I wonder if I had said this then and got some help then, would my life have been different or would I have had a happier marriage?’” she said.
“They have sat on it for years and they’re just worried sick that it has happened to someone else.”
Detective superintendent Paul Goundry, from Durham Police, said it was a tragedy that so many victims faced years of silence.
He said: “It is very sad to think that there have been so many victims of sexual abuse who felt unable to report the abuse at the time it took place.
“The figures indicate that subsequently victims have become confident enough to place their trust in us and tell us what happened to them.
“This not only enables us to investigate their cases but also bring on board the specialist agencies that can help with counselling and support.”
Temporary detective superintendent Lisa Orchard, from Northumbria Police, urged other victims of historic abuse to come forward.
She said: “Since Operation Yewtree, there has been an increase in reports of historic sexual offences reported to police both locally and nationally.
“We recognise the serious impact of sexual abuse and have specially trained officers dedicated to making sure victims have the help and support they need and that incidents are investigated appropriately.
“Having the confidence to come forward and report these incidents to police can be a huge step for victims and their families.
“We work closely with other agencies to provide advice and to make sure the right measures are put in place to safeguard them and ensure they are supported every step of the way.
“I want to reassure all victims that all offences reported to police are fully investigated sensitively and in the strictest of confidence. Anyone who believes they have been a victim of crime should contact police regardless of when the offence took place.”