At the very time the Savile revelations have rightly raised expectations for better protection of children in future, we are deeply concerned that sexual abuse is being allowed to disappear off the statutory radar.
It seems to have become significantly less prominent in the priorities of local authority social work in Scotland.
It has been overshadowed by higher priority for other types of child maltreatment, particularly neglect and emotional abuse, and by the trend away from allowing social workers time to listen and communicate with clients, on issues which require a build-up of trust.
That makes it harder for people to raise this difficult issue, and to feel confident they will be taken seriously.
Yet not only is sexual abuse in itself sexual, physical and emotional abuse, with damaging, distressing long-term consequences for many individuals and families, it also has links with many other social problems, including mental ill-health, suicide risk, offending and addictions.
Different types of child maltreatment should not be in competition with each other for resources, but approached on the basis of need.
Further, we cannot hope investigations into child sexual exploitation in Scotland will be as informed as they can be while basic awareness of child sexual abuse, and resources to combat it, are diminishing, particularly since victims of both crimes often come from the same client groups.
We would also stress that the majority (and the most secretive) of sexual abuse is located within families and local communities, among people already known to the children.
We call on the Scottish Government and Scottish local authorities to take active steps to reverse this decline; to increase awareness-raising, training and “time for listening” throughout the Scottish social work profession; to work closely with our child protection committees and voluntary sector agencies to ensure these improvements take place as soon as possible; and to resource the care sector adequately to support children and adults who have suffered sexual abuse.
Stop it Now Scotland
National child protection committee co-ordinator for Scotland
18 and Under
University of Edinburgh
Scottish Association of Social Workers