25 JULY 1987, Page 27

400 per cent

Sir: In your leading article (4 July) you state clearly, `Dr Gilmour thinks that the [sexual] abuse itself is increasing'. Clearly you did not consult me before making such an assumption, because I am very clear that I do not believe that, never have I believed it, and have never said it. Nobody knows the true incidence of sexual abuse of children, therefore nobody can measure whether it is changing; I have no reason to believe that there is any increase in inci- dence, and I am sure that at least the greater part of the dramatic increase in cases being reported to child abuse regis- ters is due to the climate having improved to the extent that children now tend to be believed and therefore to feel more free to come forward.

You are right that in one sense this response is reassuring, and one the NSPCC has been striving for. At last we are able to begin to come to grips with this problem, and prevent the life-long scarring that many have suffered over the years.

At the same time I do find the figures alarming. In the areas where we maintain child abuse registers, there has been an increase in registered cases of sexual abuse of over 400 per cent over the last two years. How long will such a rise continue before it plateaus out?

Resources for child abuse are already fully stretched: indeed, some local author- ities have insufficient staff to deal with cases of abuse already known to them. Society cannot ignore the rise in discovery of sexual abuse cases — but where are the staff and skills to cope with them?

Alan Gilmour,

NSPCC, 67 Saffron Hill, London EC1