Thousands of people have sought help over the past year to stop viewing indecent images of children.
Stop It Now! Scotland – a service that supports those who are worried about their own sexual thoughts, feelings and behaviour towards youngsters – has reported a steep rise in the number of people reaching out for help.
Data released on Tuesday revealed a total of 6010 people sought support from the charity in 2019 – a 135% increase from 2018 in which 2554 people got in touch for themselves or someone close to them.
Stuart Allardyce, director of Stop It Now! Scotland, said: “We know that thousands of men across Scotland are viewing and sharing sexual images of under 18s.
“So we must work proactively to prevent them from doing so.
“There is no one type of person who commits these sorts of crimes.
“They come from every background and every part of Scotland. They may be our friends, family, neighbours and colleagues.”
Mr Allardyce said most of the people the charity works with are adults, but a “growing proportion” are teenagers.
He added: “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; that serious consequences await those involved in it; but that our services, UK helpline and website give anonymous and confidential support and advice to stop and stay stopped.”
The Stop It Now! UK helpline opened in 2002 with Stop It Now! Scotland established in 2008.
Both are run by The Lucy Faithfull Foundation, the only UK-wide child protection charity dedicated solely to preventing child sexual abuse.
Since 2015, more than 188,000 people in the UK have used the charity’s site – which has been given a recent makeover.
Run by an experienced team of trained advisors, callers to the helpline are given practical advice to help them to stop their illegal online behaviour in both the short and long-term.
Helpline advisors also explore with callers the possibility of any direct risks to children, including in the caller’s own family, to ensure these children are protected.
Calls can remain confidential and anonymous, unless identifying details are given and a child is at risk of harm or a crime has been committed.
In 2018, the National Crime Agency estimated that 80,000 people in the UK posed a sexual threat to children online.
Those who are arrested by Police Scotland are provided with a leaflet about Stop It Now! Scotland’s services and are urged to seek help for their behaviour.
Family members of those arrested are also given details of how they can access support through the charity.
Chief constable Simon Bailey, the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead on child protection, said: “Accessing these images is not a victimless crime and viewing them creates more demand for these appalling offences.
“We are arresting more offenders than ever before – at least 500 people a month – and our tools for investigating and tracking down those responsible are the best they have ever been.
“We are committed to targeting the perpetrators of these crimes and bringing them to justice.
“The consequences of being caught are huge and include losing your job, your family life, being imprisoned and registered as a sex offender.
“Anyone who is having inappropriate thoughts about children should seek help from Stop It Now!, otherwise they should expect a visit from police officers.”
Stop It Now! Scotland
- Website: stopitnow.org.uk
- Confidential helpline: 0808 1000 900