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Talking to your child about sexual abuse and exploitation

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Online Safety Child sexual abuse and exploitation

One of the most difficult things about discovering that your child or a child or young person that you care for has been, or is at risk of being, sexually abused or exploited is broaching the subject with them. Especially if the abuser has tried to turn your child against you, breaking apart a once close relationship. Here are some tips for starting the conversation.

The TALK guide from the Internet Watch Foundation has more advice on talking to your child about online safety and child sexual abuse.

The NSPCC, Barnardo's and Upstream websites have more advice on starting a conversation on difficult topics and talking to your child about sexual abuse.

Learning about child sexual abuse and exploitation at school

Your child will also be learning at school about how they can keep themselves safe from sexual abuse and cope with potential risky situations that may arise throughout their life. This includes learning about topics like privacy and keeping safe online in primary school and grooming and sexual exploitation in secondary school. 

It’s up to your child’s teacher to decide how to deliver this learning, but it will always be approached in a sensitive, age appropriate way. Teachers use many resources to help talk about these subjects – you can see some of the resources they use on the RSHP (Relationships, Sexual Health and Parenting) education website. The site also includes information for parents and carers at each curriculum level so you can see what your child will be learning and the language that’s used to talk about the different issues. It could be useful to look at this before talking to your child about online safety. You can find more resources on the Education Scotland website.

Get support

Remember, if you suspect or find out that your child is being abused, this isn’t something that you need to deal with alone. There are lots of organisations who can offer help and advice. If you think your child is being abused or has being abused, it should  be reported to Police Scotland or Social Work, who will provide advice, support and help you to keep your child safe. Our page on reporting concerns has more information. 

Last updated: 17 Aug, 2023