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Child Sexual Abuse


The Police Scotland online child sexual abuse campaign, #GetHelpOrGetCaught launched on the 14th April 2020.  Here you can find out more about online child sexual abuse, how to report it, as well as information for victims, their families and perpetrators.

The sexual abuse of children and young people online is hugely damaging for victims and their families (and for perpetrator’s families). The consequences can last a lifetime, damaging relationships, health and long-term wellbeing.

Police Scotland are committed to tackling online child sexual abuse (CSA) and our latest campaign #GetHelpOrGetCaught warns perpetrators to stop sexually abusing children online and encourages them to seek help.

Help us to keep children safe and protect them from harm. Learn about the signs to look for that suggest a young person might be experiencing abuse online, how to get help and how to report any concerns you have.

What is online child sexual abuse?

Online abuse is any type of abuse that happens on the internet. Children can become the victims of abuse on the internet through social networking sites and apps such as Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and through email, online games or online chat facilities. These all can be accessed through tablets, mobile phones and games consoles. It may involve initial ‘grooming’ online before contact sexual abuse takes place. Or the abuse or exploitation may all take place online.

The internet enables perpetrators easy access to children online for the purposes of online sexual grooming. When sexual abuse or exploitation happens online, young people may be persuaded, enticed or forced to:

  • send or post sexually explicit images of themselves
  • take part in sexual activities via a webcam or smart phone
  • have sexual conversations by text or online.

Abusers may threaten to send images, video or copies of conversations to the child or young person's friends and family unless they take part in other sexual activity. Images or videos may continue to be shared long after the sexual abuse has stopped.

The sexual exploitation of children is child abuse and any child or young person, regardless of gender, ethnicity, family background or sexual orientation, may experience this kind of exploitation.


What are the signs?

The following are indicators of online child sexual abuse. This list is not exhaustive but might help with spotting the signs of a victim:

  • Spending a lot more or a lot less time online or on a mobile phone
  • Being secretive about who they are talking to and what they are doing online
  • Switching screens when someone enters the room
  • Appearing distant, angry or upset after internet or mobile phone use
  • Increased calls / texts to mobile phone
  • Talk about new, older friend(s)
  • Suddenly they have things they can’t afford
  • Staying out late or episodes of being missing overnight or longer
  • Isolation from peers / social networks
  • Exclusion or unexplained absences from school or college

For more information on spotting the signs visit the NSPCC site.


Get Help – Report It

If you are a child or young person and you are experiencing sexual abuse you are not alone, support is out there for you and you can get help.

Childline is a free and confidential service for children and young people. You can phone them on 0800 11 11 or you can visit their website by clicking here.

For parents, family members and carers, support and guidance is available through the following organisations:

  • Crimestoppers: call 0800 555 111.
  • Police Scotland: call 101 for advice and support (or call 999 if you think a child is in immediate danger).
  • ParentLine Scotland: call 0800 028 2233 or email: Parent Line's opening hours are from 9am-10pm (Mon-Fri) and 12 noon-8pm at weekends.
  • NSPCC: If you are an adult and worried about a child you can call the 24 hour NSPCC helpline on 0808 800 5000.
  • If someone you know is at risk of becoming an offender you can visit Stop It Now! Scotland for anonymous advice.

Our #GetHelpOrGetCaught campaign warns perpetrators to stop sexually abusing children online and encourages them to seek help. More information about the campaign can be found here.

Information for perpetrators can be found here.


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