An average of 15 sexual offences against children were recorded every day in Scotland last year, new figures have revealed.
There were 5,311 recorded offences in 2019/20, including rape, online grooming and sexual assault, – up 30% in the five years since 2014/15.
In last year’s figures, where sex was recorded, girls were five times as likely to be victims, and in the offences where age category was given, 45% of the crimes recorded were against children under 13.
Across the UK, there were 73,518 recorded offences in 2019/20. The data was provided by a total of 44 out of 45 police forces after a Freedom of Information request by the NSPCC.
The charity is now calling on the Scottish Government to follow other nations in the UK and set about producing a comprehensive Tackling Child Sexual Abuse Strategy.
Charity bosses want to see the needs of children put at the centre of how authorities respond to child sexual abuse, with a focus on prevention and victims having access to specialist support to help them recover.
Matt Forde, NSPCC Scotland’s head of service, said: “Every day, children in Scotland are being sexually abused and having to live with the devastating impacts of this abuse on their lives.
“Urgent action is needed to prevent abuse and to ensure children are supported to recover when it is disclosed.
“In Scotland, we have seen numerous plans and initiatives launched to deal with various aspects of such abuse, including child sexual exploitation and harmful sexual behaviour.
“However, we believe it is crucial to have a joined-up approach when tackling this crime and want to see a strategy which puts the experiences and needs of children at the heart of it and is effective in preventing abuse and helping young people recover.”
The call comes as an NSPCC report found contacts from young people to Childline about sexual abuse in the family tripled across the UK during lockdown.
The report shows there were an average of 23 contacts to the helpline each week about child sexual abuse in the home, up threefold since March 23 when lockdown was announced.
Some children told Childline that sexual abuse had become more frequent during lockdown, as they were spending more time with their abuser.
A spokesman for the Scottish Government said a review of guidance had been delayed due to the coronavirus crisis.
He said: “The safety and wellbeing of Scotland’s children and young people is a key priority we are working to ensure that all children and families who need support are able to access it.
“Child sexual abuse is complex with a devastating impact and requires a coordinated, multi-agency response. Intervention and protection are vital in the support of survivors and victims and we are revising Scotland’s National Child Protection Guidance, though we recognise how disappointing the delay caused by our response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been.
“No child should have to endure abuse and anyone who suspects a child may be at risk of harm should contact police.”
Police Scotland urged victims of child sexual abuse to come forward, no matter how long had passes since the incident.
Detective Chief Superintendent Samantha McCluskey, head of Public Protection at Police Scotland, said: “Anyone who reports the abuse of a child can be assured that we will listen and we will investigate all reports, no matter whether the offences happened in private, public or virtual spaces. The passage of time is no barrier to reporting.”