Stop it Now! UK and Ireland

Viewing child abuse

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Startling new evidence of the extraordinary rise in the popularity of viewing child abuse imagery was published by The Times. The only credible explanation for the scale of the rise is due to escalation by viewers of legal online pornography. We have written about this already, warning that this is a rapidly growing area of crime. On 25 February 2020 journalist Marc Horne wrote that…

Thousands of Scots are being treated for an obsession with child abuse images after a dramatic rise in the number of people seeking help.

A child protection charity which offers “anonymous, effective support” to those who look at illegal abuse images and videos has seen demand for its services more than double in a year. Stop it Now Scotland (SNS) was contacted by 6,010 individuals in 2019, up from 2,552.

The charity said that some of the individuals making use of their services had already been arrested for downloading indecent images of children. It also confirmed that a growing number of those seeking help were under 20 years old. A handful were women.

Pornography habit

Stuart Allardyce, director of the charity was quoted. “Most of the people we work with are adults but a growing proportion are teenagers. Many start to look at indecent images of children as part of their pornography habit, somehow not noticing or perhaps caring that these were images of children being abused.

“A few are struggling with a long-standing sexual interest in children and think that looking at ‘only pictures’ is a way of containing that interest.

“Everyone needs to know that this behaviour is illegal, that children are harmed by it. Serious consequences await those engaging in it, but that our services give anonymous and confidential support to stop and stay stopped.”

Mr Allardyce said that the people looking at abuse images fitted no particular stereotype.

“We know that thousands of men across Scotland are viewing and sharing sexual images of under-18s,” he said. “There is no one type of person who commits these sorts of crimes. They come from every background and every part of Scotland.

“It is almost exclusively men. But we have had some women who have contacted the service. They have either been involved in offending behaviour or been arrested in connection with this kind of behaviour.

“However, we are talking about single figures.”

New films

The charity has released two films online to encourage people to seek its help.

Mr Allardyce said: “Based on insights shared by people who have previously offended, both films play upon the building anxiety and fear of being exposed as a viewer of sexual imagery of under 18s.

“They show men being caught by a loved one and a close friend unexpectedly walking in on them as they are viewing on their devices. The tension builds and it is made clear that both men know that what they are doing is wrong.

“Adult family and friends of people who are, or are at risk, of offending online or offline can also get support. Contact the Stop it Now UK helpline or the Edinburgh office, where a range of services are available.”

He welcomed the rise in people seeking help. “That’s something we need to be very positive about. More and more people are coming forward and looking for help.”

Last year the NSPCC, the children’s charity, reported that there were 5,325 sexual offences — including assault and grooming — committed against children in Scotland in 2018-19, which was an all-time high.

A police spokesman said: “Accessing these images is not a victimless crime. Viewing them creates more demand for these appalling offences.”

Getting help

If you or anyone you know need immediate assistance, the The Stop It Now! UK and Ireland Helpline on 0808 1000 900 is available from 9.00am – 9.00pm Mondays to Thursdays. Hours are 9.00am – 5.00pm Fridays, and closed on weekends and bank holidays.

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