What can I do?

Suspecting or discovering that a loved one has been accessing sexual images of children is a distressing and confusing experience. How you feel and how you respond may depend on the person’s relationship to you and on how you came about this information, as well as your own personal circumstances and whether the person’s behaviour is already known to the authorities.

What if I suspect someone is using pornography excessively or looking at inappropriate material?

If you are concerned about the amount of time your loved one is accessing pornographic material online, you may wish to discuss this with them. It may be that they have not considered the risks or the impact on those close to them. Many individuals are unaware of the UK law in respect of sexual images of teenagers, wrongly assuming that there is parity with the legal age of consent. Therefore, if they have been viewing images depicting teenagers, it is possible that they have already broken the law or are at risk of doing so if they continue to search for such images.

If your loved one admits that their viewing of pornography is becoming a problem, you can signpost them to the resources available on this website. Alternatively, they may wish to call the confidential Stop It Now! free and confidential helpline – 0808 1000 900 or secure messaging service.

What if I have found someone accessing illegal images?

If you have discovered that your loved one is viewing sexual images of children, but the police are not at present aware of this, there are a number of considerations to bear in mind, depending on the circumstances.

If your loved one is unaware that you know about the behaviour, then you have a choice as to whether you confront them about it and whether you contact the police.

Contacting the police to report that a loved one is committing a sexual offence is a very difficult thing to contemplate and understandably many individuals would be reluctant to do so. However, it is important to remember that these offences are likely to come to police attention sooner or later, and there can be legal repercussions for loved ones who are perceived to have been complicit in the concealment of the offending.

In the case of parents or carers of children, Social Services are likely to have some contact once the offending comes to light and your actions in reporting or concealing the behaviour are likely to influence whether the professionals involved have cause for concern about the children’s welfare. Similarly, it is also worth bearing in mind that if you work in a context related to safeguarding children or other vulnerable groups, your response to the discovery of the offending behaviour may influence your employment. Before acting, you may find it helpful to talk these issues through in confidence with the Stop it Now! Helpline.

In some cases there may be safety issues to consider and we would recommend that you take this into account when making a decision about whether to confront your loved one. If you feel the person is likely to react in an aggressive manner, you may wish to seek advice and support



Many aspects of the process of coming to terms with a loved one’s accessing of sexual images of children are related to the emotional fallout.  However, some of the anxieties may be helped by seeking further information and advice.

If you are even slightly concerned that someone you love may be accessing sexual images of children online, you can call the Stop It Now! free and confidential helpline – 0808 1000 900.  Our trained operators will listen to your concerns and offer information and support.  If you prefer, please use our secure messaging service.

The helpline offers ongoing support and information to all adults who are concerned about their own thoughts or behaviour towards children, including illegal internet use, or who are concerned about an adult or child who is close to them.

Our Parents Protect website contains advice, information and resources to use with children, to help all adults to recognise and to prevent child sexual abuse.  It includes

  • Internet safety – how to keep children safe online and
  • How to create a family safety plan

The Citizens Advice Bureau may be able to advise you of your options and signpost you to the best source of legal and practical help where applicable.

Take time to make vital decisions

  • Do I report him to the police?
  • What does this mean for our relationship?
  • What do I say to the children/my friends?

The discovery that someone close to us has been accessing sexual images of children online has been described by one partner as ‘being hit by a tsunami, such was its emotional and practical impact’. Difficult and sometimes life-changing decisions need time for thought and reflection, often at a time when both are in short supply and when immediate and practical issues are often clamouring for attention.  But you need not face this alone. Talking to someone who understands and can help you make sense of what has happened can be a ‘life saver’.

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