Between 1 February 2015 and 31 January 2016, 1,208 calls were received by a charity helpline from across the UK from adults concerned about their online behaviour and to get help with their attraction to sexual images of children.
The confidential helpline is operated by Stop it Now!, a sexual abuse prevention campaign run by child protection charity, the Lucy Faithfull Foundation. The calls included 55 men from central London and a further 26 adults from central London who rang over the same period to express their concerns about the online behaviour of another adult. These calls are typically from partners or parents.
The figures point to a national trend of increased online viewing and sharing of child abuse images. Latest estimates from the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) indicate that 50,000 individuals in the UK were involved in downloading or sharing sexual images of children in 2013.
In the face of the growing demand for indecent images of children, Stop it Now! has launched a major new campaign which looks to tackle this growing problem. As part of the campaign, Stop it Now! has produced a series of innovative films, which aim to deter would-be offenders by making clear that:
- There are no grey areas – viewing or sharing a sexual image of someone under 18 is illegal.
- This isn’t a victimless crime – the experience is extremely harmful to the children involved.
- The consequences can be devastating to the family, partners and friends of people who access sexual images of children, and may include: loss of job, arrest, prosecution and becoming a registered sex offender.
The films can be watched on the Stop it Now! Youtube channel here. The innovative film, Choose Another Path, is an interactive film which explores the repercussions of viewing sexual images of under 18s. It is shot from the perspective of a young man who makes poor descions whilst online. The interactive format then allows the viewer to explore how each decision unfolds, showing the devastating consequences of going down the wrong path. It is distressing to view and provides a blunt demonstration of how these actions ruin many lives.
“However many benefits digital technology offers, we know it is also used to cause great harm. Whilst we have tough laws concerning child sexual abuse, and the viewing and sharing of indecent images of children, we know that tens of thousands of people, mostly men, go online to access this material regularly.
This campaign is designed to stop as many of them as possible, by clarifying what the law says; by telling them of the harm done to children by making and viewing this material; by bluntly showing them some of the likely consequences of their behaviour on their families and themselves; and by directing those who are struggling to stop to anonymous, free, confidential resources that can help.
But the campaign needs the public to play their part – by talking about child sexual exploitation and how to prevent it. And by being alert to the signs that a loved one may be viewing sexual images of children online and knowing how to respond and stop the behaviour as soon as possible.
Since 2002 Stop it Now! has helped thousands of people to stop any harmful behaviour towards children, both directly as well as online. It has also provided support, advice and information to families and friends concerned about a loved one’s behaviour.
The campaign has also enhanced its confidential and anonymous website, offering an even wider range of online resources, designed to help those troubled by their online behaviour to stop. The website also provides support and information to friends and families with concerns. These resources enhance the anonymous and confidential support that is already available via the Stop it Now! Helpline (0808 1000 900), which has been contacted over 53,000 times since it was set up in 2002. Between 2002 and the end of 2015, the Helpline has received 19,854 calls from adults concerned about their online behaviour, and 6,118 calls from adults concerned about the online behaviour of another adult.
The campaign has proved successful in making people across the UK more aware that help is available to stop accessing sexual images of children; and that help and support is available for people concerned about the online behaviour of another adult. Since it launched on October 13 last year, the average weekly number of calls to the helpline has increased by 26%, and visitor volumes to the Get Help section of the Stop it Now! website have increased by 180% since the campaign launched.