The head of a Christian safeguarding charity has said it's vital for the Church to be aware of situations in which people can be at risk of sexual abuse.
Justin Humphreys, CEO of Thirtyone: eight, made the comment after it was revealed that police forces in the UK recorded 73,518 offences including rape, online grooming and sexual assault against children in 2019/20, similar to the 73,379 the previous year but up 57 per cent from 46,738 in 2014/15.
The new figures also reveal almost 450 sex crimes were committed against babies before they reached their first birthday in the past year.
Humphreys told Premier Christian News that while the figures may be shocknig and sickening to most people, the reality is the numbers are probably higher.
"What we know is that there are likely to be many more cases than those that are even brought to the attention of statutory agencies and others," he said.
"Although on the surface it looks like a shockingly high number, and it's perhaps right that is the impact that it has upon most people. But I think the reality is that the numbers of children who are actually experiencing abuse is likely to be far higher."
The figures come from 44 of the 45 police forces across the UK, but do not include Greater Manchester Police, who did not provide information.
They were released on Monday as an NSPCC report found contacts to Childline about sexual abuse in the family tripled during the coronavirus lockdown with an average of 23 per week since 23rd March.
Humphreys said now more than ever the Church needs to fill in the gap of agencies that would usually be more aware of abuse situations.
"What we've been saying to churches and other organisations for some time now is that we need to understand our critical role in all of this, he said.
"There may be a reduction in the visibility of children who are at risk and adults who are at risk in various ways during this particular period, by agencies and organisations who they might otherwise have come into contact with.
"The Church has a real opportunity to maintain good engagement with children, with families and with those who are at risk in other ways. We can in a sense kind of be the eyes and ears that may not be there as they ordinarily would."
The NSPCC is urging the Government to publish its strategy to tackle child sexual abuse announced by then home secretary Sajid Javid in June last year.
The charity is calling for departments, including the Home Office, Department of Education and Ministry of Justice to join up efforts to prevent abuse.
Safeguarding Minister Victoria Atkins said the government has hosted conferences on the issue and had invested in law enforcement and boosted funds to charities.