Child protection charities say it is vital that everyone understands what child sexual abuse is
Stop It Now Scotland and the NSPCC are calling on the Scottish Government to develop a national strategy to tackle child sexual abuse focusing on prevention.
The two charities, which are today hosting an event in partnership with the Scottish Parliament, say working together to stop the abuse from happening in the first place will prevent the devastating impact it has on the mental health of children and adult survivors.
They are urging the Scottish Government to develop a comprehensive and coordinated national approach to prevent child sexual abuse, which involves health, police, education, community safety, children’s services, social services, housing and the wider community.
The child protection charities say it is vital that everyone understands what child sexual abuse is and knows how they can be part of preventing it.
A review of UK data revealed that 15 per cent of females and 5% of males will experience some form of sexual abuse before the age of 16. This means at least 80,000 children in Scotland will have been affected by this issue before they leave high school. Although this is thought to be an under-representation of the scale of the problem and the actual number of children who have experienced sexual abuse in Scotland is not known.
The charities say that to understand the numbers of children in Scotland affected and the scale of the suffering it is crucial that a prevalence survey is conducted. At the event, leading experts will discuss current evidence on preventing child sexual abuse and explore the next steps needed to make Scotland the safest country for children to grow up.
Joanne Smith, NSPCC Scotland’s Policy and Public Affairs Manager, said: “Child sexual abuse has a devastating impact on people’s lives. The response, to date, has focused largely on bringing perpetrators to justice and providing some children with therapy and support. But we believe that as a society our focus should be on preventing child sexual abuse before it occurs, before people at risk of abusing become offenders, and before potential victims become actual victims.
“Understanding child sexual abuse, and what causes it, is a vital step towards developing effective prevention strategies.”
Stuart Allardyce, Director, Lucy Faithfull Foundation / Stop It Now! Scotland, said: “We are calling on the Scottish Government to carry out a dedicated prevalence survey to identify the levels of sexual offending against children in Scotland, alongside a national strategy for tackling child sexual abuse.
“We know that sexual abuse has an enormous impact on the mental health outcomes for children and adult survivors and the economic costs for the criminal justice system.
“We believe sexual harm towards children and young people could be reduced if we focused more on prevention, including therapy being offered to adults who are worried about their sexual thoughts and feelings towards children.”
Childlight, based at the University of Edinburgh, also launches the first comprehensive global data repository today, which will look at all forms of child sexual exploitation and abuse (CSEA), with the aim of being able to show the scale and nature of this abuse.
The international team, made up of experienced individuals from academia, the private sector, law enforcement and non-governmental organisations, will produce an annual report, global dashboard and index with the data that can be used by tech companies, law enforcement agencies and those who work in child protection so they can take action to prevent CSEA.