Children sexually exploited across Scotland, report reveals

Victims or likely victims found in 27 of 32 local authorities, research finds.

Children sexually exploited across Scotland, report reveals Getty Images

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.

Fraser’s story

As a young child, Fraser had a disruptive upbringing, moving between the care of his mum, who abused alcohol, his dad, who assaulted him, and his uncle.

After a spell in foster care, he returned to his mum’s care at the age of 13. Six months later, Fraser absconded and was found by the police in the early hours of the morning. He told them that his mother had been drinking excessively.

He returned to foster care but continued to abscond and several times police found him in a local park intoxicated.

Fraser moved to a residential unit but continued to abscond and staff were concerned about his use of social networking sites, talking to older peers and the possibility of him being groomed.

Fraser went missing from the unit overnight when he was 15. On returning, he told staff that he was staying at an adult female’s address and refused to provide further details.

When Fraser was 16, he allegedly inappropriately touched a young person in the unit. He was moved on an emergency basis to another unit.

Staff in his new unit raised concerns about his mental health and notes were found in his room which stated that he no longer wanted to live. They tried to talk to him about his feelings and a referral was made to CAMHS.

A multi‐agency planning meeting took place which concluded that Fraser should be moved to secure accommodation, which was agreed at an emergency Children’s Hearing.

Fraser initially struggled with secure accommodation. However, he gradually started to settle and built a good relationship with one staff member over their shared passion for football.

Over a number of weeks, Fraser slowly built up the confidence to speak to this staff member about his feelings and past experiences. He described sexual activity with older men and women whilst at ‘parties’ in adults’ houses when he absconded.

He was given money and gifts in return for carrying out sexual acts or he would be allowed to stay the night. He also said they tried to encourage him to get other young people involved.

With the support of his key worker, Fraser reported the abuse to the police and the police commenced an investigation.

STV News is now on WhatsApp

Get all the latest news from around the country

Follow STV News
Follow STV News on WhatsApp

Scan the QR code on your mobile device for all the latest news from around the country

WhatsApp channel QR Code