Sexual Violence & Sexual Abuse Awareness Week: Plymouth StopItNow Campaign
A hard-hitting campaign gets underway in Plymouth this week – Sexual Violence and Sexual Abuse Awareness Week - to stem the rise in the number of people viewing sexual images of children online or sexually harming children in person and to encourage them to seek help to stop.
In their 2021 threat assessment, the National Crime Agency estimated between 550,000 and 850,000 people in the UK pose a sexual risk to children, both online and offline, with evidence suggesting the problem escalated during lockdown.
The Stop It Now! campaign aims to educate those worried about their own sexual thoughts, feelings and behaviour towards children. It also informs those at risk of offending, either online or offline of the confidential help available to stop their illegal behaviour.
The campaign in Plymouth features a series of short clips which will be shared across the city’s social media networks as well as targeted advertising which aim to get people – and particularly men – to question their own thoughts and behaviours. The campaign promotes the Stop It Now! confidential helpline – 0808 1000 900 and website https://www.stopitnow.org.uk for people to read and understand what triggers their illegal behaviour and get support they need to tackle illegal behaviour.
Last year over 3,100 people from Devon sought help via the confidential hotline or self help website. The helpline is run by trained advisors who are on-hand to explore with callers their thoughts and to work with them on an action plan to stop their behaviour. Calls are free and confidential, unless identifying details are given and a child is at risk of harm or a crime has been committed. Helpline advisors also explore with callers the possibility of any direct risk to children, including in the caller’s own family, to ensure these children are protected.
Donald Findlater, director of the Stop It Now! helpline, said:
“Across the UK, including in Plymouth and the rest of Devon and Cornwall, there is a growing problem of people viewing and sharing sexual images of under 18s online. It is vital we all understand that viewing and sharing this material is illegal, that many of the images are of children being abused, and that those looking at or sharing them are causing harm and risk arrest, prosecution and being put on the sex offenders’ register.
Most of the people looking at this illegal content aren’t the stereotypes that the public would expect – they are our friends, family, neighbours and colleagues. Some of them are just children themselves, but that doesn’t stop the behaviour from being illegal. Many of these individuals start out with an increasing adult legal pornography habit, but then begin looking for riskier and extreme material.
The Stop It Now! helpline and website provide anonymous and confidential support and advice to help stop this behaviour. We also support friends and family worried about a loved one’s behaviour online, so that they can get the support they need at an early stage. No-one has to deal with it alone – we can help, just as we have helped tens of thousands of people in this position over recent years.”
John Wiseman, coordinator for Circles South West said:
“This is really difficult territory for many of us and we would all prefer to think that sexual abuse does not happen. We have support for children who have been sexually abused in our city, but unfortunately the reality is that sexual abuse of children is increasing. If we want to stop this then we have to make sure people who have these inappropriate thoughts, feelings and behaviours are helped to stop.”
The campaign in Plymouth is being backed by Together for Childhood – a partnership of 45 organisations who work to prevent child sexual abuse using an approach that ensures not only children are supported but that the workforce, parents, carers and people who may sexually harm understand how they can play their part in preventing this type of abuse. Workforce training has been organised across the city and the partnership is encouraging employers to support the campaign by helping staff feel more confident to routinely share the information on help available.
The Stop It Now! helpline is run by The Lucy Faithfull Foundation, the only UK-wide child protection charity dedicated solely to preventing child sexual abuse. Adult family and friends of people who are, or are at risk of, offending online or offline can also get support from the Stop It Now! helpline, whether they are worried about another adult or a child or young person with worrying sexual behaviour. The helpline is also available for professionals who are worried about the sexual thoughts or behaviour of others.
Superintendent Jennifer Bristow from Devon & Cornwall Police said:
“Child sexual abuse and exploitation has a terrible impact on victims and their families. It is important to understand that every image features a victim or victims experiencing sexual assault or abuse.
We are working hard to keep children safe from abuse and exploitation and we ask that any person who is struggling with inappropriate thoughts towards children reach out to the Stop It Now! Helpline for support.
During 2021, 431 cases of indecent images of children were investigated by specialist detectives in in online investigation team. The impact of this type of crime can be traumatic and life-changing, not only for the victims but also for the families and loved ones of perpetrators. So, if this issue affects you, please seek help.”
Councillor John Riley, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Community Safety said:
“This campaign is part of the city’s Safer Streets 3 funding measures to address violence against women and girls. “A key theme is to try to tackle the behaviour of people who may sexually harm. If we are serious about preventing sexual abuse we need to work in this space.”
Sexual Abuse & Sexual Violence Awareness Week runs from 7th – 13th February 2022. Find out more here.