Most Scots believe that child sexual exploitation does not happen in their local area

People are inclined to believe child sexual exploitation does not go on in their area, according to Barnardo’s Scotland.

The charity carried out research into the public’s understanding of the issue and found respondents from the Highlands and Islands in particular did not consider the issue a major problem in their community.

Minister for Children and Young people, Maree Todd (pictured), joined the charity in Inverness on Monday to launch its findings.

She said: “Child sexual exploitation is everyone’s responsibility.

“For it to be preventable, it requires everyone to play a part in acknowledging that it isn’t only an urban issue, and that sadly it can happen anywhere.

“We hope that by talking about this issue, more people will be able to recognise instances of exploitation occurring, and have the confidence to report it to the authorities to protect the well-being of children.”

Barnardo’s says there is a barrier to youngsters accessing specialist support services, which it believes is linked to a lack of public understanding of child sexual exploitation (CSE).

Less than half of those surveyed thought that CSE was a “very” or “fairly” significant issue in their area.

The charity said the current level and nature of the Scottish public’s understanding of CSE remained “relatively low”.

The report found a failure to recognise that 16 and 17-year-olds can be victims and suggested people have a more relaxed attitude to boys being groomed and abused by older women.

Men appear to be particularly disengaged with the topic of CSE, Barnardo’s said.

Daljeet Dagon from the charity said: “It is very concerning that the public just don’t recognise some behaviours as being abusive and exploitative.”

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Pictured (c) Andrew Milligan / PA Wire.