A NEW sex abuse prevention strategy has been introduced in North Ayrshire after repeated complaints from residents including direct action against offenders.

North Ayrshire’s Child Protection Committee launched their Child Sexual Abuse Strategy –which they say is the first of its type in Scotland – setting out the actions to prevent child sexual abuse, protect those at risk, and support those who are experiencing abuse or who have experienced it in the past.

Dr Anne Houston OBE, Chair of North Ayrshire Child Sexual Abuse Strategy Group, said: “We know children and young people struggle to find support when they are being sexually abused, often fearing that they’ll not be taken seriously or perhaps even blamed.

“As adults, we have to show them that we can and will listen to and support them. Therefore we have to face this difficult topic and begin to bring it into the open by discussing it in our homes, communities and workplaces.

“Only then will the children and young people needing our support feel able to share their experiences and get the support and protection they desperately need. If we can’t talk about it then they certainly won’t.”

The strategy was developed by a multi-agency group comprising of representatives from Barnardo’s, Children 1st, Police Scotland, NHS Ayrshire & Arran, North Ayrshire Health and Social Care Partnership and , the council’s education and housing services.

Evidence suggests as many as one in 10 young people aged 11 to 17 in the UK could have experienced sexual abuse within the last year, and one in 20 in the same age group could have experienced it at some point in their childhood.

That means that over 900 children and young people in North Ayrshire alone are likely to have been sexually abused in the past year.

There are many types of sexual abuse, where young people are forced, tricked or tempted into sexual activities, and it doesn’t always involve physical contact. It can also include things like children being exposed to or shown pornography, being tricked or forced into taking part in sexual conversations online, or being made to touch themselves or watch sexual acts.

Any child could be at risk, and it can happen anywhere – in a child’s home or someone else’s home, at clubs or events, in fact anywhere that children and young people socialise and relax and where they should feel safe.

It can often be hard for them to understand that what they are experiencing is sexual abuse, and even when they do know it’s wrong they are often too scared to tell anyone and may believe it’s their fault.

Without the right support at the right time, sexual abuse can lead to long term problems in terms of development and social relationships for children and young people, as well as having a negative effect on mental health.

To view the North Ayrshire Child Sexual Abuse Strategy, or to find out more about child protection training for members of the public and professionals, visit the NACPC website at http://childprotectionnorthayrshire.info/cpc/.

If you think a child could be in immediate danger, call the Police on 999.