London, Nov. 21 (ANI): Thousands of children are sexually abused by gangs and groups in England each year, according to a report.
The Office of Children's Commissioner study said that there were 2,409 victims in the 14 months to October 2011, but the true number is likely to be far higher.
The report also identified 16,500 children who were at 'high risk of sexual exploitation' in 2010-11.
According to the BBC, the report, titled 'I thought I was the only one - the only one in the world', sets out the findings from the first year of a two-year inquiry.
It is the first report to attempt to set out the scale of the sexual exploitation of children and young people and comes in the wake of the jailing in May of nine Asian men for grooming and sexually exploiting white girls as young as 13 in Rochdale, Greater Manchester, the report said.
The report draws on evidence from local authorities, police, health services, voluntary agencies and children and young people, it added.
The deputy children's commissioner, Sue Berelowitz, said the evidence indicated that the perpetrators 'come from all ethnic groups and so do their victims, contrary to what some may wish to believe'.
The report also calls for urgent action to protect vulnerable children from all forms of sexual exploitation.
"Child sexual exploitation is child abuse and a very serious crime, which the government is committed to tackling," a spokeswoman for the Department for Education said.
"Since last year the government has been implementing a child sexual exploitation action plan to raise awareness, prosecute and jail criminals, protect young people at risk, and help victims get their lives back on track. We published a progress report on the action plan in July and will be publishing a further update in due course," she added. (ANI)