Rise in child sex abuse prompts concern from NSPCC

Gillian and Aiden McGhee with the Talk PANTS guide Image copyright NSPCC
Image caption The NSPCC is repeating its Talk Pants campaign encourage parents to discuss the issues with children

A charity has highlighted a rise in sexual abuse against children aged under 13 in Scotland.

The NSPCC said Police Scotland recorded more than 700 offences against young children in 2012/13.

The charity also reported an increase in calls to its helpline.

It said it was so concerned by the figures that it is re-running its Underwear Rule campaign, which encourages parents to talk to children about staying safe from sexual abuse.

A total of 3,369 sexual offences against children were recorded by Police Scotland in 2012/13, according to figures from the Scottish government.

A quarter of those cases related to offences which had been committed before December 2010.

Figures from the NSPCC's helpline for concerned adults showed that sexual abuse accounted for 13% of calls which resulted in a referral, and 26% of calls which resulted in advice in 2012/13.

Compared with 2011/12, this represented a 68% increase in referral figures and an 83% increase in advice contacts.

Matt Forde, national head of service for NSPCC Scotland, said: "These figures are unfortunately just the tip of the iceberg.

"We know that it can take many years before victims disclose abuse - in the meantime there will be many more children in Scotland who do not understand what is happening to them, or who have tried to tell but have not been heard."

The charity's Underwear Rule campaign was originally launched last summer and aimed to give parents the confidence to have an easy conversation about what many originally saw as a difficult area for discussion.

Mr Forde added: "Our campaign has started to make inroads in giving children the protection they need but there is obviously still a long way to go.

"Parents and carers can play an important role by ensuring their children are armed with the knowledge to recognise the wrong kind of behaviour and keep themselves safe.

"The Underwear Rule is a vital part of this process and is already striking a chord with some parents, but we would urge more to get involved."

Support materials are available for parents and the NSPCC has developed a guide, called Talk Pants, that helps children understand the key points of the rule.

Gillian McGhee, from Clydebank, has used the guide to talk to her five-year-old son Aiden.

She said: "The guidance packs for parents and children allow for a perfectly natural conversation. It's not scary or boring; it's child-friendly, bright and colourful - which helped to keep his interest and allow us to chat openly about the issues raised."

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