The first TV campaign in the UK to tackle child sexual exploitation is being supported in Fife and across Scotland.
Launched this week, the campaign’s dramatic TV advertisement highlights how to spot the warning signs and shows how conversations online can potentially lead to young people placing themselves in danger.
New research shows 93 per cent of parents have heard of child sexual exploitation, but almost a third know little about it and over a third believe it won’t affect their family.
Yet last year, 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.
And experts feel these figures may be the tip of the iceberg.
Fife’s Child Protection Committee, as well as Police Scotland, NHS Fife, a number of voluntary organisations and children’s charity NSPCC Scotland, are all backing the campaign.
Alan Small, independent chairman of Fife’s 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.
“Research shows 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 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.”
As well as the TV advert, the campaign also includes 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.
An NSPCC Scotland spokesman said: “We really are only touching the surface of this serious crime which often results in very young children being treated in the most brutal fashion and treated as objects to be traded for sexual abuse.
“NSPCC Scotland welcomes this campaign. The more parents, carers and young people are aware about the dangers and can spot the signs of child sexual exploitation the more that can be done to protect young people.”
Anyone who has questions or concerns about child sexual exploitation can visit the website www.csethesigns.scot where advice and support is available.
NSPCC’s ChildLine service provides a safe, confidential place for children with no one else to turn to, whatever their worry, whenever they need help. Children can contact ChildLine 24 hours a day, 365 days a year on 0800 1111 or by visiting www.childline.org.uk
The NSPCC’s free helpline provides adults with a place they can get advice and support, share their concerns about a child or get general information about child protection. Call 0808 800 5000, text 88858 or visit www.nspcc.org.uk
If you consider a child or young person to be in immediate danger, DO NOT wait, call Police Scotland 999 or the Police Scotland Contact Centre on 101.