Published on
05 March 2021

Daljeet Dagon, National Programme Manager for Child Sexual Exploitation at Barnardo’s Scotland, explains the importance of CSE Awareness Day.

Child sexual exploitation is sexual abuse and as such is never the fault of the child. Children become vulnerable due to their circumstances and when their needs are not being met. Abusers exploit the vulnerabilities experienced by children in ways that mask the nature of the abuse.

Cultural attitudes towards the experiences and behaviours of some young people however appear to cloud our understanding of consent and victimhood, leading to too many children and young people being seen as complicit in their abuse.

These cultural attitudes are so ingrained into our understanding of sexual abuse that the language we use to identify cases can blame victims. When victim blaming language is used, there is a risk of normalising and minimising the child’s experiences, resulting in a lack of appropriate response.  

Children and young people who access Barnardo’s Scotland sexual exploitation services have reported that they are aware of victim-blaming attitudes within these systems and how the experience can cause deterioration in their wellbeing, which impacts on their relationships with trusted adults.

Responsibility for abuse/exploitation therefore always lies with the perpetrators who abuse and exploit children and cause them harm; irrespective of the behaviour or circumstances of a child. If there is no perpetrator, there will be no abuse/exploitation of a child.  

Scottish Government must take responsibility for the recommendations in the report published in 2020 Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration (SCRA) and Barnardo’s Scotland Sexual exploitation of children involved in the Children’s Hearings System  and the charity’s policy recommendations Policy Report: Sexual exploitation of children involved in the Children’s Hearings System and assign their delivery to an appropriate national working group (either new or existing) with appropriate strategic oversight and accountability processes.

Daljeet Dagon has over 25 years working in this sector and campaigning to raise awareness of CSE.

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Notes to Editors

Barnardo’s Scotland and SCRA developed the research using their own resources without any external funding.  The research was based on  information held in SCRA’s case files.  Research proposal was presented to the National CSE Group; the research was overseen by a Research Advisory Group with representation from colleagues from Social Work, Police Scotland, Scottish Government, Strathclyde and Stirling Universities.

Prevalence - The research confirms that CSE is a widespread form of abuse in Scotland, affecting children from all backgrounds in all parts of the country. It also confirms that CSE is happening to boys/young men as well as girls and young women

Sexual exploitation of children involved in the Children’s Hearings System  Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration (SCRA) and Barnardo’s Scotland

The research was based on the case files held by SCRA of 213 children. The research identified 44 cases where child sexual exploitation was reported by services and 30 where it was assessed that the child was a likely victim of sexual exploitation.

Of the 74 children, there were 53 girls and 21 boys who were victims or likely victims of sexual exploitation.  For almost a half, this abuse started before they were 13-years-old,  the youngest was 11-years-old. 

The study found that there were many similarities between boys and girls in terms of their social, family and behavioural vulnerabilities, and their histories of care.  Almost all were influenced by negative peers and/or older people, and/or had not had a protective, nurturing adult at some point in their lives; 50% had experienced a significant bereavement, while around a third had been exposed to sexual behaviour and/or have a learning difficulty.

Policy Report: Sexual exploitation of children involved in the Children’s Hearings System Barnardo’s Scotland

What is child sexual exploitation?  Child sexual exploitation is a type of child sexual abuse and a crime which can have hugely damaging and long-lasting consequences for its victims.  It occurs where an individual or group takes advantage of an imbalance of power to coerce, manipulate or deceive a child into sexual activity in exchange for something the victim needs or wants, and/or for the financial advantage or increased status of the perpetrator or facilitator.  The victim may have been sexually exploited even if the sexual activity appears consensual.  It does not always involve physical contact and can occur through the use of technology.

The Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration (SCRA) is a statutory organisation that is responsible for the administration of the Children’s Hearings System.  It is the only organisation in Scotland that holds information on all children involved in the Hearings System at a national level and also has a research team with expertise on looked-after children SCRA’s vision is that vulnerable children and young people in Scotland are safe, protected and offered positive futures”.

Barnardo’s Scotland work with more than 16,300 children and young people in over 140 specialised community-based services across Scotland and has around 100 shops.  We believe in children and we believe every young person has a right to thrive. Our vision is to realise Thomas Barnardo’s dream of a world where no child is turned away from the help that they need. Our work includes: fostering and adoption services and support; helping children break free from sexual exploitation; supporting young people leaving care; helping young people in to employment and helping children living in poverty.   

Barnardo’s Scotland Katrina Slater e: [email protected]  t: 0131 446 7022

SCRA Maryanne McIntyre e: [email protected]    t: 0131 244 8580

Sexual exploitation of children involved in the Children’s Hearings System