Children are being sexually exploited across Scotland, a study has shown.
The abuse is happening in rural and island communities, urban and mixed urban/rural areas.
There were 74 children identified as victims or likely victims of sexual exploitation in 27 of the country’s 32 local authorities.
The findings were part of a research report by the Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration (SCRA) and Barnardo’s Scotland.
The report defined child sexual exploitation (CSE) as “a form of child sexual abuse in which a person(s), of any age takes advantage of a power imbalance to force or entice a child into engaging in sexual activity in return for something received by the child and/or those perpetrating or facilitating the abuse.”
‘Children can never be expected to predict, pre‐empt or protect themselves from abuse/exploitation’.Report: Sexual exploitation of children involved in the Children’s Hearings System
It adds: “As with other forms of child sexual abuse, the presence of perceived consent does not undermine the abusive nature of the act.”
In terms of CSE, a child is anyone up to the age of 18 years old.
The information used in the research was available from case files held by the SCRA, which contain reports from social work, police, schools and health professionals, as well as decisions made by Children’s Reporter and hearings.
“Children can never be expected to predict, pre‐empt or protect themselves from abuse/exploitation,” the report said. “They cannot influence or stop someone abusing/exploiting them.”
It added: “Responsibility for abuse/exploitation therefore always lies with the perpetrators who abuse/exploit children and cause them harm; irrespective of the behaviour or circumstances of a child – if there is no perpetrator, there will be no abuse/exploitation of a child.”
The study also found that 80% of boys identified by the research team as likely victims of sexual exploitation were not identified in official reports as being victims. This compared against 25% for girls.
Boys were more likely to have been exposed to violence, research found, while girls were more likely to have had a much older boy/girlfriend.
Girls were more likely to have been reported as the victims of sexual abuse.
Other findings included, boys being more likely to display sexually harmful behaviour. Girls were more likely to have attempted suicide and self-harmed.
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