Child sexual abuse and exploitation

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Child sexual abuse involves a child or young person engaging in activity for the sexual gratification of another adult, child or young person. It is never the child or young person’s fault.  Child sexual exploitation is a form of child sexual abuse in which a person or persons of any age take advantage of a power imbalance to entice, force or persuade a child or young person into engaging in sexual activity, in return for something received by the child and/or those perpetrating or facilitating the abuse. Child sexual abuse can take place in person or online and it can be a one-off event or occur over long periods of time.

A child or young person cannot consent to their own abuse. The claim that the child or young person consented in no way justifies or mitigates the abusive act. 

If you suspect that a child or young person you care about is at risk, you may be feeling scared, powerless, confused or angry. But painful as this situation is, you're not alone: there is help out there, and you can get through this. So don’t panic. There are lots of organisations who can offer help and advice. 

Abuse involves serious crime and isn’t something that you need to deal with alone. If you think your child is being abused or has been abused, it should be reported to Police Scotland or Social Work whose trained experts will provide advice and support and help you to keep your child safe. Our page on reporting concerns has more information. 

In this video, Ann Jarvis from Children 1st explores some of the myths around child sexual abuse and exploitation and how to spot the signs that something may not be right. She also explains about how to talk to your child about this issue, and how parents can support their child if they've been a victim of sexual abuse or exploitation.