Parents in Ayrshire and Arran are being urged to look out for the signs of child sexual exploitation following the launch of a Scottish Government campaign.
New research shows 93 per cent of parents have heard of child sexual exploitation, but almost a third (29 per cent) know little about it and over a third (36 per cent) believe it won’t affect their family.
It’s often a hidden crime where the child may not understand that they are in fact a victim and so may not come forward to seek help.
A new TV advert and website - www.csethesigns.scot - show how conversations online can potentially lead to a young person placing themselves in danger and highlight how to spot the warning signs.
Parents in Ayrshire and Arran are being encouraged to learn what to look out for when identifying key warning signs of child sexual exploitation, such as sudden changes in behaviour, acting secretively, new friendships, coming home late, or coming home with new expensive things like mobile phones, ipods or clothes without being able to explain where they came from.
In 2014/15 ChildLine in Scotland provided 635 counselling sessions to children and young people worried about child sexual exploitation, with the NSPCC responding to 62 inquiries from adults in Scotland in the same period. Yet experts feel these figures may be the tip of the iceberg.
Education Secretary Angela Constance launched the child sexual exploitation campaign during a visit to ParentLine in Edinburgh. She said:“Child sexual exploitation is happening to boys and girls in Scotland.
“By its very nature this form of child abuse is often hidden and many young people who are affected don’t realise they are a victim and will not ask for help.
“The first step in tackling this abhorrent crime is understanding it can happen to anyone.
“It can take many forms – online, through social media or on phones, as well as in person on a one to one or group basis.
“Barnardo’s Scotland directly supported 266 young people who have been victims or were at risk last year, but these figures may be the tip of the iceberg.
“New research shows that most parents don’t know a lot about it and don’t believe that their family is at risk.
“This campaign aims to change that and help parents and young people understand the warning signs and prevent the abuse before it takes place.”
The TV advert is running alongside outdoor advertising and supported by partnership work with local authorities, schools and health bodies.
The campaign is aimed at young people aged 11-17.