Sexual offences against children in Scotland have increased by almost a third over the last five years, new figures show.
Police Scotland data obtained by children’s charity NSPCC show there were 5,311 recorded offences in 2019/20 – an average of 15 a day and up 30% in the five years since 2014/15.
This include instances of rape, online grooming and sexual assault.
The most recent figures show girls were five times as likely to be victims.
And 1,588 offences were against children under 13 – 45% of crimes where age was recorded.
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 figures were released as an NSPCC report found contacts to Childline about sexual abuse in the family tripled during the coronavirus lockdown, with an average of 23 per week since March 23.
One 17-year-old girl said: “It started during lockdown, about seven weeks ago.
” I don’t want to live here anymore. I feel I should tell social services about how abusive dad is, but I don’t feel ready to tell them about the sexual abuse part.”
NSPCC Scotland has now called on the Scottish Government to produce a strategy to combat child sexual abuse.
It said this should put the needs of children and young people at the centre of how authorities respond to child sexual abuse, with a focus on effective prevention and victims having access to support.
The charity said the availability of specialist therapeutic sexual abuse services is “patchy and inconsistent across the country”.
And it is calling for health, policing, social work, therapeutic and other services to be provided to children in one location.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The safety and wellbeing of Scotland’s children and young people is a key priority and 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 co-ordinated, 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.”