If you’re worried about the online sexual behaviour of an adult who hasn’t been arrested

Suspecting or finding out that a loved one has been viewing sexual images of children or having sexual conversations with children online can be a distressing and confusing experience. Your response and emotions depend on your relationship with the person, how you learned about the situation, your personal circumstances, and whether authorities know about their behaviour.

You don’t have to navigate this challenging situation alone. Our helpline advisors are available to support you. Whether you have concerns, questions, or simply need someone to talk to about what you’re going through, we’re here to help.

Addressing concerns about pornography use

If you are worried about a loved one’s pornography use, consider having an open discussion with them. They might not be aware of the impact their behaviour has on others or the legal risks involved. Many individuals we work with tell us that their pornography use was problematic and over time it escalated to them viewing sexual images of children. It’s crucial to understand that viewing any sexual image of a child under 18 is illegal, regardless of the age of consent or where the image came from. If they are viewing images of teenagers, they may already be breaking the law or are at risk of doing so.

If your loved one is concerned about their pornography use, you can tell them about the information on our website and about the anonymous help we can give them.

Becoming aware of the illegal behaviour

It’s against the law to view sexual images of people under 18 or to engage in sexual communication online with children under 16.

If your loved one has disclosed to you that they are doing this, and the police are not aware, there are some important things to consider. You have the option to talk to them about it and encourage them to seek help from us. You may also decide that you would like to ask them to self-report to the police or you could do this yourself.

If you have found sexual images of children or sexual conversations between your loved one and a child it is important to not put yourself at any risk. Do not take screenshots or copies of the images and ensure that you do not go back on the device to look for the images or conversations. If your loved one doesn’t know that you are aware of their behaviour, you have the option to talk to them about it or decide whether you will report it to the police.

Reporting concerns

Reporting your loved one’s illegal online behaviour to the police can be a difficult decision, and it’s understandable that many people are hesitant to do so. However, it’s important to know that the police might find out about it eventually. The children in the images and conversations are victims of abuse, and reporting the crime could help them.

If your loved one is a parent or caregiver, Children’s Services may contact them when they learn about the illegal behaviour. Your actions, whether you report it or keep it hidden, may influence how they make their assessment.

If you work in a safeguarding role or with vulnerable groups, how you respond to the discovery of this illegal behaviour could also affect your job.

In some cases, safety issues may arise, and it’s important to consider this when deciding whether to talk to your loved one. If you believe the person might react aggressively or abusively, seeking additional advice and support is a good idea. The National Domestic Abuse helpline and the Men’s Advice Line can assist you with any concerns. You can always report anonymously through Crimestoppers, although the police are often better able to respond to a concern from an identifiable person.

If you wish to report any concerning activities related to child sexual abuse, such as individuals, websites, or illegal images, please contact the following organizations.

If you have any concerns, questions, or would just like to talk about what you are going through, our non-judgemental helpline advisors are here to support you. You can stay anonymous and don’t have to give your real name or any contact details. If you’re not ready to speak to anyone yet, you can also use our live chat or send a secure email.

Find peer support on our Family and Friends Forum

Back to top