Working together to prevent child sexual exploitation
The Highland Council and Police Scotland aim to prevent child sexual exploitation in the Highlands by raising awareness of the signs of abuse.
Children’s Services in Highland have been working in close partnership with Police Scotland and built on established positive relationships to tackle this form of sexual abuse which can impact on young people.
Awareness of Child Sexual Exploitation, also known as CSE, rose to prominence on a UK-wide basis following a high profile report on cases in Rotherham in 2014, but even before this, the Scottish Government had taken action to highlight the dangers to young people in Scotland and subsequently tasked councils to produce a local action plan.
Children’s professionals are not complacent and have drawn up a plan based on three key areas for action. These include awareness-raising; identification, record-keeping and data-sharing; and missing children.
One of the ways to protect children is to raise awareness in the wider community about possible risks, and the signs to look out for.
The definition being adopted in Highland covers the many different ways in which child sexual exploitation could affect a young person, sometimes without them recognising that they are being exploited.
Child sexual exploitation is a form of sexual abuse, in which a young person is manipulated or forced into taking part in a sexual act by someone who has power over them. This could be as part of a seemingly consensual relationship, or in return for attention, affection, money, drugs, alcohol or somewhere to stay.
Bill Alexander, Chair of the Highland Child Protection Committee said: “The young person may think that their abuser is their friend, or even their boyfriend or girlfriend, but the abuser will put them into dangerous situations, forcing the young person to do things they don’t fully understand or want to do.
“Young people can be exploited through use of substances or by being tricked, or through the use of technology such as social media sites, instant messaging, etc. This could involve getting young people to post sexually explicit images or take part in sexual activity or sexual conversations using technology.
“The abuser may be male or female; they may physically or verbally threaten the young person, or be violent towards them. They will control and manipulate them, and try to isolate them from friends and family."
Detective Chief Inspector Vince McLaughlin said: “Police Scotland remains committed to working with partner agencies to help keep children and young people safe from harm, in addition to bringing perpetrators of these crimes to justice.
“The rise in online child exploitation, in its many forms, is down to increased access to mobile devices, improved download technologies and the development of sophisticated software to conceal activities. Undoubtedly, this creates a challenge for all agencies, so the strength behind partnership working is absolutely essential to tackling this issue."
Cllr Linda Munro, Highland Council Children’s Champion said: “If you’re worried about any young person who you suspect might be in this kind of situation, please try to speak to them to share your concerns and to persuade them to take steps to protect themselves. If you’re still concerned please contact the Police or the Council’s Care and Protection services without delay. If we all work together we can keep our children safer from harm."