Police Scotland recorded an average of 15 child sex offences every day last year, new figures from the NSPCC reveal.
There were 5,311 recorded offences including rape, online grooming and sexual assault against children in Scotland in 2019/20 – up 30% in the five years since 2014/15.
In last year’s figures, where gender was recorded, girls were five times as likely to be victims, and in the offences where age category was given, 45% of the crimes recorded were against children under 13.
Across the UK, there were 73,518 recorded offences in 2019/20. The data was provided by a total of 44 out of 45 police forces after the NSPCC submitted a Freedom of Information request.
NSPCC Scotland believes these figures show the urgent need for national leadership to create a coordinated plan to tackle child sexual abuse, both online and offline, in the country.
The charity is now calling on the Scottish Government to follow other nations in the UK and set about producing a comprehensive Tackling Child Sexual Abuse Strategy.
The charity is calling for the strategy to put the needs of children and young people at the centre of how authorities respond to child sexual abuse, with a focus on effective prevention and victims having access to timely, relevant and specialist support to help them recover.
NSPCC Scotland research has shown that the availability of specialist therapeutic sexual abuse services is patchy and inconsistent across the country.
Support should include that provided through Child House initiatives where health, policing, social work, therapeutic and other services provide help to children under one roof.
Matt Forde, NSPCC Scotland’s head of service, said: “Every day, children in Scotland are being sexually abused and having to live with the devastating impacts of this abuse on their lives.
“Urgent action is needed to prevent abuse and to ensure children are supported to recover when it is disclosed.
“In Scotland, we have seen numerous plans and initiatives launched to deal with various aspects of such abuse, including child sexual exploitation and harmful sexual behaviour.
“However, we believe it is crucial to have a joined-up approach when tackling this crime and want to see a strategy which puts the experiences and needs of children at the heart of it and is effective in preventing abuse and helping young people recover.”
The call comes as an NSPCC report found contacts from young people to Childline about sexual abuse in the family tripled across the UK during lockdown.
The report published today, ‘The impact of the coronavirus pandemic on child welfare: sexual abuse’, shows there were an average of 23 contacts to Childline per week about child sexual abuse in the home, up threefold since 23rd March when lockdown was announced.
Some children told Childline that sexual abuse had become more frequent during lockdown, as they were spending more time with their abuser.
One 17-year-old girl said: “It started during lockdown, about seven weeks ago. Dad touched me and got me to touch him. Today he came into my room and removed his trousers and asked me to do something to him and I did it. I don’t want to live here anymore. I feel I should tell social services about how abusive dad is, but I don’t feel ready to tell them about the sexual abuse part.”
A third of counselling sessions were about abuse in the family that happened over a year ago, with many children talking about it for the first time.
A 15-year-old girl told Childline: “My dad touched me sexually when I was younger and now I have to be home all the time with him and I can’t deal with it. Just being in the house with him is so hard. I am constantly reminded of what he did.”
Anyone concerned about a child can contact the NSPCC Helpline for advice on 0808 800 5000. Adult victims of non-recent sexual abuse can also get in touch for support.
Childline is available for young people on 0800 1111 or at www.childline.org.uk.