Exploitation figures ‘tip of the iceberg’

The national television advert highlights the telltale signs of child abuse
The national television advert highlights the telltale signs of child abuse

Victims of child sexual exploitation have been given a voice in a new national campaign which is being backed by West Lothian Council.

It is the first TV advert in the UK to tackle the issue and highlight how to spot the signs of abuse.

Aimed at parents and young people aged 11 to 17, the adverts explain that exploitation can happen to any young person of any gender and from any background.

Danny Logue, executive councillor for social policy, said it is a complex form of abuse and many are manipulated, pressurised or forced into taking part in a sexual act in exchange for receiving something.

These can include gifts, money, accommodation, drugs, alcohol, or simply affection.

He said: “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.”

The advert shows how conversations online can lead to a young person coming into contact with danger which parents might not be aware of.

Councillor Logue said parents often do not realise their children can be at risk.

He said: “This research shows that many 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 advert is being backed by Police Scotland, ChildLine and other children’s charities, including Barnardo’s Scotland, NSPCC Scotland and Children 1st.

ChildLine in Scotland provided 635 counselling sessions last year to young people worried about the issue, 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.

Research shows 93 per cent of parents have heard of child sexual exploitation, but almost a third know little about it and over 36 per cent believe it won’t affect their family.

Young people can call Childline confidentially anytime on 0800 1111. Visit www.csethesigns.scot for advice.