A CHILDREN’S charity has urged parents to broach the subject of potential sexual abuse with their children following a substantial rise in reports to police in the past year.
NSPCC Scotland has raised concerns over an increase in calls to its helpline and a rise in the number of sexual offences against under-13s.
Figures from the helpline show that sexual abuse accounted for 13 per cent of calls which resulted in a referral, and 26 per cent of calls which resulted in advice in 2012-13.
Compared with 2011-12, this represented a 68 per cent increase in referral figures and an 83 per cent increase in advice contacts.
Figures from the Scottish Government show that in 2012-13 Police Scotland recorded in excess of 700 sexual offences against children aged under 13 – a 4 per cent increase on the previous year.
A total of 3,369 sexual offences against children were recorded, with a quarter of these having been committed prior to 1 December, 2010.
NSPCC Scotland is re-running its Underwear Rule campaign which encourages parents of children aged 5-11 to talk to them about staying safe from sexual abuse.
The campaign was originally launched last summer, with 2.3 million people viewing the online video, and nine out of ten parents who were aware of the campaign said they now know how to broach the subject.
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.”
He went on: “Sexual abuse continues to be a terrible scar on our society which won’t heal by itself. 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.”
Tam Baillie, Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People, previously said of the project: “The simple messages in the NSPCC Underwear Rule can be used by parents and carers to raise these difficult issues in a way which children can understand.
“These messages will hopefully help the children recognise danger signs when the rules are not being followed and, if necessary, give them the confidence to speak to someone they trust.
“That is why it is so important for parents and carers to have the confidence to talk to their children in ways that help them to keep safe.”
Case study: ‘The guidance packs allow for a perfectly natural conversation’
Gillian McGhee, from Clydebank – a mother to five-year-old Aiden – is among those who applied for the pack.
She said: “It was a difficult subject to approach with my son, but using the Underwear Rule and the materials provided by the NSPCC gave me the confidence to start having these conversations with him.
“He responded really well to the materials. 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.”
The campaign complements the organisation’s ChildLine Schools Service which is visiting every primary in Scotland.