A CHARITY has questioned the way some parents bring up their children after 356 youngsters were sexually abused in Avon and Somerset in the past two years.
The NSPCC says most victims know their attackers, with the majority of the crimes committed by teenage boys against girls.
But the charity points out there was also a small proportion of female offenders as well as male and female victims.
The crimes recorded by police included serious sexual assaults, rape and obscene publication offences.
Sharon Copsey, NSPCC head of service for the South-West, said about two-thirds of contact sexual abuse on children is committed by other young people and, while it is shocking, the behaviour can be turned around if caught early.
She added: “It’s deeply concerning that thousands of children across the country are committing sexual offences including serious assaults and rape.
“For very young children, such as those of primary school age or younger, we have to question the environment in which they are growing up that has led to them behaving in this way.
“Prevention has to be the key and that is recognising warning signs early and taking swift action.
“It could be that they have seen sexual activity that they are just too young to understand and are copying what they’ve seen.”
Parents can help keep their children safe by teaching them the ‘Underwear Rule’, which tells youngsters that the area covered by their underwear should never be touched by anyone else.
Adults worried about a child or in need of help and advice can contact the NSPCC’s helpline on 0808-8005000.
Children and young people can contact ChildLine on 0800-1111.