Today (18 March 2019) is Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) Awareness Day and Barnardo’s Scotland is launching Public Understanding of Child Sexual Exploitation, the first survey of its kind carried out across Scotland.
Although there has been significant work carried out to raise the awareness of child sexual exploitation by the charity, the Scottish Government, and other agencies, Barnardo’s Scotland’s services are reporting there can still be a barrier to children and young people accessing or being referred to specialist support services - this is linked to an overall lack of public understanding which has prevented CSE being recognised and children receiving the right support.
The report found that a significant barrier to identifying CSE was the tendency for the public to accept child sexual exploitation does happen, but ‘not in their local area’. The survey revealed that less than half of the respondents thought that child sexual exploitation was a very or fairly significant issue in their local area, with respondents from the Highlands and Islands considerably more likely than any other area to say that child sexual exploitation was not a major issue in their local area.
Maree Todd, Minister for Children and Young People, speaking at the launch of the report said:
“Child sexual exploitation is everyone’s responsibility. For it to be preventable, it requires everyone to play a part in acknowledging that it isn’t only an urban issue, and that sadly it can happen anywhere.
“We hope that by talking about this issue, more people will be able to recognise instances of exploitation occurring, and have the confidence to report it to the authorities to protect the wellbeing of children.”
The report highlights that there are particular messages about child sexual exploitation that the public don’t understand or recognise, including that children can also carry out exploitation, and that older children (16/17 year olds) can be victims.
Barnardo’s Scotland and Scottish Government are looking to this report to help focus further research around public understanding and provide insight to policy makers to provide clearer messages and preventative approaches to groups in society that might benefit from targeted messages.