Call for zero tolerance to child sexual exploitation

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MSPs were told there was a long way to go to achieve zero tolerance in society to child sexual exploitation, by a network supporting professionals who work to tackle the issue.

Sheila Taylor MBE and Cheryl Stevens from the National Working Group for Sexually Exploited Children and Young People were giving evidence to the Public Petitions Committee on 29 October 2013.

The Committee is undertaking an inquiry into the issue following a petition by Barnardo's Scotland stating that many children and young people were being put at risk of being exploited because of a lack of reliable information which was failing to paint a picture of how bad the problem was.

Child exploitation can cover a range of activity, from exchanges of sex for attention or gifts to multiple rape and serious organised crime, with young people who are vulnerable or from deprived backgrounds at particular risk.

Sheila Taylor MBE stressed the need for the voices of young people to be heard and for professionals to be trained to recognise child sexual exploitation.

She called for more research around child sexual exploitation in post pubescent victims, known as hebephilia in America.

Ms Taylor also said it was vital to understand what drives child sexual exploitation and not just work with victims but also offenders.

This approach would be better than just reacting to a crime when committed when "the horse has bolted and children have been raped".

Kirsten Stalker, a professor of disability studies at the University of Strathclyde, called for the Scottish government to fund research into the sexual exploitation of disabled children and young people highlighting a "gap in knowledge".

She called for the inclusion of disabled children in all measures and initiatives to protect against sexual exploitation and to ensure these were made accessible to all.

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