18 March 2021

Increasing understanding of Child Sexual Exploitation

Thursday 18 March marks Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) awareness day – an opportunity to raise awareness about such a difficult subject, increase public understanding of the issue and share advice to parents, young people and anyone else who may have concerns.

We work alongside partner agencies including Police Scotland, NHS Grampian and Aberdeenshire Voluntary Action to ensure our collective effort to protect children and young people as well as adults is as effective as it can be. Detective Inspector Lesley Clark from Police Scotland's Public Protection Unit has shared the following update as part of marking this important day.
She says: "You may have an understanding of what CSE is already, but I would like to take this chance to explain exactly what it is - CSE is a form of child sexual abuse that can take place both online and in person and involves a young person (under the age of 18) being manipulated, forced or tricked into performing sexual acts and can happen to both boys and girls. At the start the young person may think they are in a loving consensual relationship because they receive gifts, money, status and affection - however in reality they are being groomed.
"Having gained the young person’s trust the abuser will control them through threats and violence and may force them into performing sexual acts, sending naked images or to groom other youngsters.  The abuser will use any means, including online websites, forums or social media platforms to meet young people.
"Quite often the young person does not realise they are being abused and think their circumstances are ‘normal’.
"Everyone in society has a role to play in protecting children and young people however the signs of CSE aren’t always obvious and this can be a barrier to identifying young people that are at risk of being exploited.  If you’re a teacher, parent, carer, hotel worker, bus driver - anyone who may be in a position to identify exploitation - it’s important to know what you’re looking for.
"The Scottish Government launched a three-week campaign at the start of this month – called #CSEthesigns – which Police Scotland has been supporting alongside our partners. This year’s campaign is more important than ever, with all of us spending more time online for school, work, and socialising, therefore creating a heightened risk of CSE occurring online. I would urge anyone with concerns to visit the government’s campaign website (http://csethesigns.scot/) which offers advice and resources for both parents and young people on numerous topics including the forms, how to spot the warning signs and symptoms, and practical advice for staying safe online and offline.
"Officers across the North East are committed to working alongside our partners to protect children and young people, and we all support the ‘Getting It Right For Every Child’ initiative (GIRFEC) which helps families by making sure they receive the right support at the right time and from the right people. Alongside my team, we work closely with our partners including all three local authorities, NHS Grampian and local charity groups to ensure our collective effort to protect children and young people, as well as adults, is as effective as it can be. Identifying and preventing CSE is just of the issues we are all dedicated to tackling as we know how devastating the consequences can be."

For further help and guidance, the GIRFEC Aberdeenshire website includes dedicated sections for children and young people, parents and carers and practitioners: GIRFEC Aberdeenshire | Getting it Right for Every Child in Aberdeenshire – Getting it Right for Every Child in Aberdeenshire (girfec-aberdeenshire.org). This also signposts the teams who can guide you if you have any child protection concerns. To report a concern, visit: https://www.girfec-aberdeenshire.org/report-a-concern/ or please call 999 in an emergency.