By Karrie Gillett
DESPERATE children in Scotland are speaking out about sexual abuse more than ever before.
Worrying new figures have revealed that the number of calls from kids to a charity helpline has nearly doubled in the last three years.
And the shocking statistics reveal that 127 cries for help to Childline regarding sexual abuse are made by children under seven years old.
The figures from the NSPCC show that a record 2,849 children were counseled about sexual abuse in the last three years – the highest number in the charity’s 18-year history.
The service said that recent storylines in TV soaps had helped to make more children aware of what sexual abuse is.
Elaine Chalmers, head of ChildLine in Scotland said: “We believe calls have gone up partly because of awareness campaigns targeted at children like the NSPCC “Don’t Hide It” campaign.
“Child sex abuse storylines on programmes such as Eastenders also encourage children to speak out.
“As a result, more children now understand what sexual abuse is and are increasingly willing to turn to ChildLine for help.”
The telephone lifeline-– which has 14 bases around the UK – is currently able to answer two-thirds of the 2.3m calls it receives every year.
Last year, the NSPCC launched a three-year appeal to raise £50m to expand the 24-hour service with the aim of ensuring every call gets answered.
The latest figures are a great cause for concern as they show an increase of 49 per cent in calls made about sexual abuse since the last figure of 1,908 in 2004-5.
Across the UK, the charity said 13,237 calls about sexual abuse were made to ChildLine – an increase of 53 per cent over three years.
And of this figure, the majority of children were being abused by someone they knew well – with 59 per cent claiming they were suffering at the hands of a family member.
A further 29 per cent said they had been sexually abused by someone else known to them, and of the thousands of children counselled, 61 per cent were aged twelve to fifteen.
Ms Chalmers added: “Every day, ChildLine receives dozens of harrowing calls about sexual abuse from children, some of whom are very young indeed.
“Children phone to talk in confidence about suffering different kinds of sexual abuse, the vast majority of the abusers being people they know, either within their families, or the wider family circle.
“ They dare not speak about it, or ask for help, for fear of the consequences. Many of them have been threatened or intimidated into silence. ”
The charity said the need for the helpline service has never been more obvious with the rising demand in kids who feel ready to speak out.
The NSPCC Child’s Voice Appeal hopes to raise enough funds to introduce new technology and more trained volunteers to man the phone lines.
Esther Rantzen, ChildLine founder and President, said the service urgently needed to be expanded so that every child could receive help.
She said: “These tragic calls come from children who have found the courage to ring a ChildLine counsellor. Yet there are many children whose cries for help cannot be answered because ChildLine simply does not have enough resources to answer every call.
“Our nightmare is the child who plucks up the courage to ring, fails to get through, and never dares try again.
“As a ChildLine counsellor, I have experienced first-hand these heart-wrenching calls from children who feel utterly alone until they make the call, I know the hope we provide these children literally saves precious young lives.”