A new short film which aims to act as a “wake-up call” to people viewing child sex abuse images online has been released by a charity urging offenders to call its helpline and put a stop to their behaviour.
The Lucy Faithfull Foundation (LFF), which runs a helpline for those concerned about accessing images of children being abused, warned that people who offend online “come from all backgrounds and walks of life and don’t conform to stereotypes”, so everyone must be aware of the risks.
Last month the charity released figures showing that the number of people accessing the LFF Stop it Now! helpline had risen by two thirds in the past year to more than 270,000.
It said around a quarter of people who call the Stop It Now! helpline do so because they are concerned about another adult’s sexual behaviour involving children.
Its latest research suggests 70% of people would encourage a friend or family member to seek help if they believed they were looking at sexual images or videos of children.
The film comes in the same week as an internet watchdog found that images of children aged as young as seven being abused online have risen by almost two thirds while the number of webpages found to contain the most extreme material has doubled in recent years.
The Internet Watch Foundation, which is the UK organisation responsible for tracking down child sexual abuse imagery on the internet, found a record 51,370 of the webpages that it took action to remove or block from the internet in 2022 contained Category A child sexual abuse material.
Child sexual abuse prevention expert and helpline director Donald Findlater said he wanted to let people know “it isn’t too late to stop”.
The charity said its new 30-second film, Triggers, was created based on insights shared by people who have previously offended and highlights the building anxiety and fear of being exposed as a viewer of sexual images of under-18s.
It shows a man sitting in a cafe as tension builds after he notices a newspaper front page reporting on an arrest of someone for viewing indecent images of children online. Knowing what he has been doing is wrong, the man’s anxiety lessens as he contacts the helpline to begin his journey towards change, the charity said.
Mr Findlater said: “Our message to anyone on that path, or already offending, is that these pictures and videos cause huge harm to the children in them. And watching them has massive consequences for the viewer, including possible arrest, jail, job loss and family breakdown.
“But it isn’t too late to stop. The thousands of men who call us after being arrested tell us they wish they’d made a change and stopped sooner. Many felt they were in a cycle they couldn’t break and we helped them find a way out – to stop and to stay stopped.
“We hope this information will serve as a wake-up call and that anyone worried about their own or someone else’s behaviour will contact us for advice and support.”
Forensic psychologist Dr Alexandra Bailey, senior practitioner with LFF, said it is “easier than ever to find more extreme types of pornography” and for some people this can mean “pushing the boundaries into offending and viewing sexual images of children”.
Dr Bailey said: “People who offend online come from all backgrounds and walks of life and don’t conform to stereotypes. This means that everyone needs to know the risks and what to do if you’re worried about your own or someone else’s online behaviour.”
Deputy chief constable Ian Critchley, from the National Police Chiefs’ Council said: “Viewing sexual images of children online is never victimless. These are crimes which destroy and devastate lives, including the lives of the children and families of people arrested. We are seeing more and more the devastation left behind when a family member is arrested for this kind of offending.”