The Outer Hebrides Child Protection Committee is supporting the first TV campaign in the UK to tackle child sexual exploitation, which was launched in Edinburgh last week.
It comes as 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.
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.
A new TV advert highlights how to spot the warning signs of this form of abuse and shows how conversations online can potentially lead to a young person placing themselves in danger.
The TV advert will run alongside outdoor advertising, partnership work with local authorities, PR and social media. The campaign is aimed at parents and young people aged 11-17, with the message child sexual exploitation can happen to any young person, regardless of their gender or background.
A range of partners are supporting the campaign, including Barnardo’s Scotland, NSPCC Scotland, ChildLine, Police Scotland and Children 1St..
A spokesperson for the Outer Hebrides Child Protection Committee said: “Child sexual exploitation is a complex form of abuse in which victims are manipulated, pressurised or forced into taking part in a sexual act in exchange for receiving something - this may include gifts, money, accommodation, drugs, alcohol, or simply affection. It’s often a hidden crime where the child may not understand that they are a victim and so may not come forward to ask for help.
“This research shows that most parents don’t know a lot about the ways in which child sexual exploitation can take place and don’t believe that their family is at risk. The reality is child sexual exploitation takes many different forms, both online and offline, and can affect any young person regardless of their gender or background.
“Parents and carers can play an important role in helping to keep young people in Scotland safe by making sure they are familiar with the signs of abuse that could indicate a child is at risk of abuse or already being affected.
The Outer Hebrides Child Protection Committee welcomes and supports this important awareness raising campaign from the Scottish Government and would urge anyone who has questions or concerns about CSE to visit the website csethesigns.scot where advice and support is available.”