Childline report 19% increase in sessions on sexual abuse as it launches new campaign

Childline has reported a rise of almost a fifth in counselling sessions it provides to youngsters in Scotland about sexual abuse and exploitation.

New analysis by the NSPCC of Childline data showed 299 such counselling sessions were provided in 2022-22 – up 19% from the 251 session the previous year.

The figures were revealed as the Childline service launched a new campaign in a bid to encourage more children and teenagers at risk of, or suffering, sexual exploitation to contact the service for help.

Short films showing different scenarios involving sexual exploitation – all based on calls to Childline – are being shown as part of The Full Story campaign.

The initiative will also see posters placed at bus stops, motorway service stations, cinemas, colleges, youth centres and youth hostels, as well as in children’s homes, GP centres and sexual health clinics.

It comes as the number of Childline counselling sessions dealing with sexual exploitation and abuse across the UK increased to 6,230 in 2021-22 – up from 5,962 in the previous 12 months.

A 15-year-old living in Scotland told the charity: “My mum doesn’t care about me. She drinks a lot and there isn’t food in the house.

“I’ve started getting close to someone who looks after me when my mum doesn’t. I stay at her house sometimes.

“I used to sleep downstairs but now I sleep with her. We’ve done stuff together and had sex.”

A 14-year-old Scot said: “I’ve met a man in his 40s who is really nice. I met him online and then we met in person.

“He sold me weed and has gone to the shops for me to get alcohol and cigarettes. We hooked up one night and have started seeing each other a lot.”

Adeniyi Alade, service head for Childline Scotland, said it is “essential” all children and young people are aware of the issues around sexual abuse exploitation – and that it is never the fault of the child.

Mr Alade said: “Sexual exploitation is a complex crime and often when children describe what is happening in their relationship, they don’t realise they are being groomed and abused.

“Our counsellors have heard from children who have said they didn’t realise what they experienced in a relationship or friendship was wrong until they were much older, and some said at the time they thought their abuser was someone they could trust.

“Others said they thought they were to blame for what had happened and were scared about what would happen if they did speak out.

“This is why this campaign is so important as it’s essential that all children and young people have an awareness of this issue and know that no matter what the circumstances are, that sexual exploitation is never a child’s fault and there are people like Childline who can help.”

Childline offers confidential, non-judgmental support to children and young people 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

Young people can talk to the Childline counsellors online in a one-to-one chat from an account they set up on, or can call the freephone number 0800 1111 for help and advice.

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