DOZENS of girls in a borough have experienced or are believed to be at risk of female genital mutilation (FGM).

Analysis of government figures shows that FGM featured in 33 social work assessments in 2017-18 in Blackburn with Darwen.

In the North West, there were 160 cases, which means that more than one in four of those reported were in Blackburn with Darwen, with only Manchester having a higher number at 44.

FGM is a violent form of child abuse and has been illegal in the UK for over 30 years.

Carried out in secret and often without anaesthetic, FGM involves the partial or total removal of external female genitalia for non-medical reasons.

Victims are usually aged between four and ten, but some are babies.

Girls are often forcibly restrained and it can leave victims in agony and with physical and psychological problems that can continue into adulthood.

Children’s charity NSPCC described the procedure as abhorrent and urged communities to speak out.

An NSPCC spokesman said: “Sadly, the true picture of how many girls and women affected by this abhorrent crime is likely to be much higher because for far too long the practice of FGM has been cloaked in secrecy.

“Since we launched our dedicated FGM helpline we have had nearly 2,000 calls, and last year we referred 82 cases to the authorities.

“By encouraging communities to speak out we hope to bring an end to this dangerous and illegal practice in the UK.”

People have been asked to call the NSPCC helpline for support and advice if they are worried a child is at risk of or has had FGM.

Anyone who is concerned that a child is at risk of or has experienced FGM can speak to an NSPCC FGM helpline advisor on 0800 028 3550 or email