Number of people seeking help to stop looking at child sex abuse images online increases 40%

More than 36,000 people in UK seek help from charity - for own behaviour or that of partner or family member

Samuel Osborne
Thursday 05 April 2018 07:45
Majority visited Stop it Now website for self-help resources, advice and support
Majority visited Stop it Now website for self-help resources, advice and support

The number of people seeking help to stop viewing images of child sexual abuse online has increased by 40 per cent, a charity has revealed.

In 2017, 36,443 people in the UK contacted Stop it Now! through their website or helpline, compared to 26,089 who used the services in 2016.

The majority of those used the website, run by child protection charity The Lucy Faithfull Foundation, which provides self-help resources, advice and support to those who want to address their online behaviour.

While 34,192 people used the site, 2,251 called the anonymous Stop it Now helpline with concerns – either about their own behaviour online or that of a partner or family member.

The figures rose in each country in the UK, with a 55 per cent increase in Scotland, a 41 per cent increase in England, 40 per cent in Northern Ireland and 20 per cent in Wales.

In 2016, the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for child protection said approximately 100,000 people in the UK were viewing and sharing sexual images of children online.

Chief constable Simon Bailey said: “Police forces are arresting more offenders who view or share sexual images of children online and protecting more children than ever before.

“However child sexual abuse cannot be countered by enforcement alone. It requires schools and parents to educate children to ensure they stay safe, as well as for technology and social media companies to take their responsibilities seriously in protecting young people online.

“Alongside the important role for education in raising awareness and a greater role for technology companies in child protection, it is also crucial that offenders who are yet to be arrested are given the opportunity to seek help.”

Stop it Now! has been providing advice and support since 2002 and said 55 per cent of contacts came from people concerned about their own behaviour.

The charity said the rise is partly explained by a campaign to tackle the viewing of child sex abuse images launched in October 2015.

Stop it Now! released a series of films with warnings about the harm viewing such images causes, aimed at those who have looked at indecent images or are tempted.

Over 69,000 people have visited the Stop it Now! website since October 2015.

One person who called the campaign’s helpline and used the website’s self-help resources said: “I had no real idea of what to expect [when I called the Helpline] but that anxiety was quickly put to rest.

“The woman I spoke to recommended I access some of the modules on the Stop it Now! website. These helped me understand my behaviour better.

“I found out what triggers I have to offending, and what sort of things might be missing in my life that could be pushing me to do things I wouldn’t normally want to do… Understanding that path is very important to choosing the right measures to put in place to never go there again.”

Andy Burrows, the associate head of child safety online at the NSPCC, said: “Every child abuse image is a crime scene and behind each picture is a real victim who is re-abused with every click. NSPCC research suggests that up to half a million men in the UK may have viewed child abuse images, which shows that this is a serious problem which must be urgently addressed.

“Deterring people from viewing these images is vital but it must be part of a larger approach by tech companies, Government and law enforcement agencies to work together and cut this material off at the source.”

Tom Squire, clinical manager at The Lucy Faithfull Foundation, said: “Stop it Now! is determined to protect children from abuse and the devastating impact of having their image repeatedly shared across the internet. The best way to do this is to deter people from looking at these images in the first place, and to get those who are looking to stop.

“What our recent campaign shows is that you when you make people aware that help is available to stop, people will take up that offer of help. We work with many men arrested after downloading huge numbers of abusive images of children. Nearly all of them say they wish they had known sooner about the help that’s available to stop.

“So I’d urge anyone out there worried about what they are looking at online to get in touch – via the Stop it Now! Get Help website, or via our confidential Helpline on 0808 1000 900.”

Susie Hargreaves OBE, CEO of the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), said: “While these are shocking figures, it is encouraging to see how many offenders out there are wanting to get help and support to stop looking at illegal online images of child sexual abuse.

"In order to keep children safe, child protection organisations have to work collaboratively and The Lucy Faithfull Foundation is a fundamental part of this collaboration in the UK.

“We work closely with The Lucy Faithfull Foundation in our work protecting children from sexual abuse, and while the IWF works to remove child sexual abuse images and videos from the internet, the Stop it Now! campaign has proved to be incredibly effective in stopping offenders from continuing to access this content online, or preventing them from looking at it in the first place.”

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