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It is important that you look after yourself as well as you can, ensuring that you are eating healthily, exercising daily and getting enough hours sleep each night, as this can really help you to feel a little bit better in yourself. If you feel that you need any further support with any of the above or with your general mental health, then I would encourage you to make an appointment with your GP to see if there are any local support services that might be useful for you at the moment. There are also a number of telephone services available for people experiencing mental health crisis. The NHS operates urgent mental health telephone support line across the country. These services are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and can provide contact with a mental health professional for urgent advice and support. You can find the telephone number for your local service here. The Samaritans are also available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, by telephone, text message and email, and can offer support. You can find their contact details for all services here under the ‘how we can help’ tab.
You might find it helpful to look at the Get Help section on our website which you can find here. This offers free and anonymous self-help for people who are worried about downloading or have already accessed illegal images of children. This section on our website has online modules that you can complete at your own pace. Please bear in mind that these modules can be quite hard hitting, so please only access them when you feel emotionally robust enough to do so. There is also a family and friends’ section on here which you may wish to pass on to your family or loved ones to help them understand the behaviour you were engaging in and it might answer some questions they may have. I would also like to make you aware that your family can contact us on the helpline for anonymous and confidential support and advice if they would like to.
There are other services that we offer, such as our Inform+ course which is an educational programme for individuals who have accessed indecent images of children. Or our Engage Plus course which is a programme for individuals who have communicated online with children. You can find out more about these courses here.
To get further support and advice please contact the Stop it Now! helpline to speak to one of our Helpline Advisors or use our live chat service.
I strongly encourage you to contact us on our Stop It Now! helpline on 0808 1000 900. One of our trained advisors will then be able to explore your situation with you further and provide tailored guidance and advice. I would like to assure you that the helpline is anonymous, confidential and free to phone from a landline.
Alternatively, you can contact us on out live chat service, which is open Monday and Friday 9am –12pm and Wednesday 6pm – 9pm. You can find more information about this service here.
It would be very important for you to try and put some parameters around your internet use. First, you need to stop viewing any images which might be illegal images, if this is something that you are doing. The more you view these images, the harder you make it for yourself to stop it, especially if you are sexually aroused to the images. If you are living with someone else, you could make sure you only use the internet when others are around, providing you some sort of supervision over your internet access. If you live alone you could do some practical things like limit the amount of time you spend online, go online with an appropriate purpose and once that is done switch the computer off, or you could write a list of the potential consequences if you continue with viewing illegal images, as a motivator to manage your online behaviour. Additionally, although not the answer to the problem, you might find it helpful to get some filter software on your computer to block your pornography access. Similarly, you could ask your internet service provider (e.g. BT, EE, Sky, etc..) to opt you out of pornography or adult content.
You might find it helpful to look at the Get Help section on our website which you can find here. This offers free and anonymous self-help for people who are worried about downloading or have already accessed illegal images of children. This section on our website has online modules that you can complete at your own pace. Please bear in mind that these modules can be quite hard hitting, so please only access them when you feel emotionally robust enough to do so. You can discuss your progress with these modules with our helpline advisors and they can help you explore and understand your motivations for your behaviour.
It is incredibly difficult to find out that your child has been looking at sexual images of children or communicating sexually with children online. Your child will be going through an extremely difficult time and may find it very difficult to talk about their behaviour or how they are feeling. It can be embarrassing talking about sex and pornography and sexual offending will bring additional feelings of shame and guilt. Sometimes the images they view may be of children of a similar age and this can lead to confusion and difficult feelings, as the online behaviour, although illegal, may have been age appropriate in the sense that they may have been viewing images of those a similar age.
It is much easier to overcome these types of behaviours when your child has people to confide in and hold them accountable for their behaviour. So there are many ways in which you can support your child in moving forward. Firstly, as a practical measure and a deterrent, you could install software on your child’s devices that mean you are monitoring what they are looking at. You could also contact your internet service provider as they can do their best in blocking sexual content. Another thing you can monitor is where your child uses your internet-based devices. For example, your child could only use devices when you are sitting in the same room as them e.g. in the living room, and ensure you take any devices off of them when you go to bed at night. These restrictions will be limiting opportunities to view sexual images of under 18s, and they’ll also be giving a break from going online (which can be great for your child’s mental health). It is important that you let your child know that you are there for them and they can talk to you about how they are feeling.
It is also important that your child considers some safety measures, especially if they continue to use pornography. You may want to suggest your child considers the following:
- Avoid websites where they have seen illegal images.
- If viewing pornography, use generic well-known websites and avoid using ‘risky’ search terms.
- Avoid clicking random links, or ‘clickbait’.
- They could also consider using offline means to view pornography such as DVD’s or magazines as this will reduce the chances of viewing something illegal.
If they identify a problem with pornography then they find it useful to have a look at the website Your Brain on Porn which you can find here. This website is designed to help individuals to understand the science of addiction and the possible effects of internet pornography.
Another website that you might be interested in is Fight the New Drug which can be found here. This website is also designed to educate individuals about the use of pornography and includes some useful videos about how pornography impacts the brain, heart and the world, that you may find beneficial to watch.
The Stop It Now! Helpline on 0808 1000 900 can support you at this difficult time and can let you know about other services that we have such as call backs with practitioners from our Young Peoples Team and our Inform Young People programme.
It is also worth letting your child know they can speak to someone if they are finding it difficult to cope. Childline offer a listening service on 0800 1111 or visit their website where they have other options for you to get in touch with Childline. There is also Kooth who offer a well-being community for young people who need support.
There is a lot of research about the harmful impact of pornography, particularly for young people, but also for adults. Pornography affects the brain by stimulating the same areas as drugs, which can lead to problems for the person viewing it. A young person’s brain is growing new synapses. If they are looking at unhealthy material online, this could mean they eventually form unhelpful arousal patterns. Generally, if people are viewing pornography they need to have boundaries in place about what they’re watching and how frequently they’re viewing it.
There are some really helpful websites for young people that aim to support and educate them around sex, love, relationships and online safety. I would suggest you have a look at them and then pass on the ones that you think are suitable: CEOP - offers advice for staying safe online. The Reward Foundation - a relationship and sexual education charity, especially educating young people and parents about pornography use. Bish - a guide to love and sex for 14+ year olds. Kooth offers online support community for helping with any emotional problems young people have. Childline - a safe space to talk about any emotional difficulties with resources to help young people develop positive coping strategies
It sounds like some of your child’s online behaviours are risky and I hope that I can offer some advice and support for you in addressing these issues. It is important for you to know that it is illegal for someone under 18 to look at sexual images of anyone under 18 (even if they are the same age), it is also illegal to send indecent/sexual images of themselves to other people. It also puts them at risk of being exploited and groomed online.
Here are 5 rules of online safety that I would like you to think about and discuss with your child:
S - SAFE Keep safe by being careful not to give out personal information - such as your name, email, phone number, home address, or school name - to people who you don't know online.
M - MEETING Meeting someone you have only been in touch with online can be dangerous. Only do so with your parents'/carers' permissions when they can be present.
A - ACCEPTING Accepting e-mails, IM (instant messages) or opening files from people you don't know or trust can be dangerous - they may contain viruses or nasty messages.
R - RELIABLE Someone online may be lying about who they are, and information you find on the internet may not be reliable.
T - TELL Your parent, carer or a trusted adult if someone or something makes you feel uncomfortable or worried.
I would advise that you contact our Stop it Now! helpline for tailored advice and support. Our trained operators will be able to discuss your situation with you in more detail and signpost you to the most appropriate resources. Additionally, speaking over the telephone allows us to ask you follow up questions and notice nuances. Please be reassured that our helpline is anonymous, confidential and free to phone from a landline.
You also might want to have a look at the NSPCC and the services that they can offer to children that have experienced abuse. You can find out about them here.
Barnardo’s also run a number of projects for children and families that have been affected by sexual abuse. Action for Children also provides family centres running projects for families and children affected by sexual abuse.
Think U Know (a website run by an organisation called CEOP) also has some information about how you can support your child if they have experienced sexual abuse. You might find this useful to have a look at and it might have further signposting and resources. Similarly the Trauma and Grief support network has an information sheet regarding how to cope and provide support to your child in situations like these.
It is important that you also get support at this difficult time. If you have not already, it would be helpful to explain the situation to your GP, they might be able to refer you for counselling or support. There is also a charity called We Stand. They support parents of children who have been sexually abused. They also have a helpline 0800 980 1958.
There is no standard definition of ‘child sexual abuse’. The government within each country defines ‘child sexual abuse’ within its child protection guidelines.
“Involves forcing or enticing a child or young person to take part in sexual activities, not necessarily involving a high level of violence, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening.”
“The activities may involve physical contact, including assault by penetration (for example, rape or oral sex) or non-penetrative acts such as masturbation, kissing, rubbing and touching outside of clothing. They may also include non-contact activities, such as involving children in looking at, or in the production of, sexual images, watching sexual activities, encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways, or grooming a child in preparation for abuse (including via the internet).”
“Sexual abuse is not solely perpetrated by adult males. Women can also commit acts of sexual abuse, as can other children.”
(HM Government, 2015)
“Sexual abuse is any act that involves the child in any activity for the sexual gratification of another person, whether or not it is claimed that the child either consented or assented.
“Sexual abuse involves forcing or enticing a child to take part in sexual activities, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening. The activities may involve physical contact, including penetrative or non-penetrative acts. They may include non-contact activities, such as involving children in looking at, or in the production of, pornographic material or in watching sexual activities, using sexual language towards a child or encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways.”
(Scottish Government, 2010)
“Forcing or enticing a child or young person to take part in sexual activities, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening, including:
- physical contact, including penetrative or non-penetrative acts;
- non-contact activities, such as involving children in looking at, or in the production of, pornographic material or watching sexual activities;
- or encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways.”
(Welsh Assembly Government, 2006)
“Sexual abuse involves forcing or enticing a child to take part in sexual activities”.
“The activities may involve physical contact, including penetrative or non-penetrative acts. They may include non-contact activities, such as involving children in looking at, or the production of, pornographic material or watching sexual activities, or encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways.
“Sexual activity involving a child who is capable of giving informed consent on the matter, while illegal, may not necessarily constitute sexual abuse as defined for the purposes of this guide. One example, which would fall into this category, is a sexual relationship between a 16 year old girl and her 18 year old boyfriend. The decision to initiate child protection action in such cases is a matter for professional judgment and each case should be considered individually. The criminal aspects of the case will, of course, be dealt with by the police.”
(Department of Heath Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS), 2003)
Paedophilia is a sexual interest in prepubescent children. Often, people who commit child sexual offences are labelled as a ‘paedophile’. However, not everyone who commits such offences has a sexual interest in prepubescent children.
Paedophilia can be distinguished from sexual interests in other age groups, although someone may have an interest in more than one age group. A sexual interest in young people at the beginning of puberty is called hebephilia. A sexual interest in young people in mid- to late adolescence is called ephebophilia.
Paedophilia can amount to paedophilic disorder which can be diagnosed if someone with paedophilia acts on their sexual interest in prepubescent children and/or if they are highly distressed by their sexual interest in children.
It is not fully understood how and why some people develop a paedophilic interest or disorder. It is likely that lots of different factors interact in the development of paedophilia. This includes biological, social, and psychological factors.
It is important to distinguish between sexual interest and sexual behaviour. Having a sexual interest in children (paedophilia) is not in itself illegal. It is acting on the interest which constitutes an offence. It is important to be aware of the law as it applies to online and offline sexual offences within your jurisdiction.
It is also important to note that not everyone who commits a sexual offence against children, either online or offline, has a sexual interest in children.
It is not the sexual interest in children (paedophilia) that is illegal. Sexual behaviours involving children, online and offline, are illegal.
There is much debate about whether a sexual interest can change. We know from our experience that for many people with a sexual interest in children, such an interest can sometimes take over large parts of their lives, for example, time spent online or worrying about their sexual interest and the implications. Some people are able to shift their thinking and behaviour in a way that the interest doesn’t make up such a big part of their lives anymore.
Paedophilia does not equal child sexual abuse (see ‘What is paedophilia?’) although often these terms are used interchangeably. Research has shown that people who have committed sexual offences benefit from treatment and that treatment reduces the risk for reoffending. That means that people who have committed child sexual offences can change their risk level.
A sexual harm prevention order (SHPO), previously known as a sexual offence prevention order (SOPO), is a court order that can be requested by the police, or court when there is a specific concern about an individual. This court order will be requested to prevent a person from engaging in a particular activity.
It is very common for a person who is convicted of online sexual offenses relating to children, to be subject to a SHPO. Examples of conditions set by the order include:
- Not being allowed to visit places where it is likely there will be many children e.g. a playground in a park
- No access to the internet without installed computer monitoring software
- No deleting of internet history
The police are required to go to your home without giving you notice, to ensure that you are complying with your conditions.
Since 1997, anyone cautioned or convicted for a sexual offence is put on the sex offenders register (SOR). This includes anyone who commits a sexual offence on the internet.
Under the Sexual Offences Act, all those on the sex offenders register must register with the police within three days of their conviction or release from prison. If you are convicted, you will be required to go to your local police station and sign the register. If you do not register, you will be charged with another criminal offence.
You are required to provide the following information at registration:
- Full name and any other names used (aliases)
- The addresses of any properties you stay in for more than seven days a year (non-consecutive)
- Date of birth
- National insurance number
- Passport details
In addition, you must notify the police:
- Of all foreign travel
- If you are living or staying with a person aged under 18, for 12 hours or more
- Of certain credit card and bank account details
You will be required to go to the police station on a regular basis in order to sign a document stating that you are still complying with SOR regulations. If you have no fixed address, you will be required to go to the police station once a week.
Failure to notify the police on any of the above or of any changes to any of the above is a criminal offence.
How long will I be on the sex offender register?
This will depend on the offence you have committed and the sentence you have been given. If you are convicted of offences relating to online sexual behaviour involving children, you could receive:
|Length of the sentence:
|Length of time on SOR:
|Custodial sentence of 30 months or more:
|Custodial sentence of more than six months but fewer than 30 months:
|Custodial sentence of six months or less:
|Any other outcome such as a community order or fine:
|A conditional discharge:
|Notification requirements apply for the period of the discharge
For further information about the SOR visit the charity Unlock's website.
The books and organisations referenced have been recommended as helpful resources by people we have worked with – including people who have offended online and their families and friends.
The resources listed below can be used in conjunction with the self-help materials found on this website, but individuals may find some more helpful than others.
This list is not exhaustive – if there is something which you have found helpful which is not on the list, please get in touch and we can update our list.
|The Porn Trap
|Wendy Maltz & Larry Maltz
|Maltz, W., & Maltz, L. (2008). The Porn Trap: The Essential Guide to Overcoming Problems Caused by Pornography. New York: Harper Collins Publishers.
A book around the destructive power of instantly available online pornography to help you understand and move on from online sex addiction; includes real-life stories.
|Weston Edwards, David Delmonico & Elizabeth Griffin
|Edwards, W., Delmonico, D., & Griffin, E. (2011). Cybersex Unplugged: Finding Sexual Health in an Electronic World.
A workbook designed to provide resources for individuals struggling with their online sexual behaviour.
|In The Shadows of the Net
|Patrick Carnes, David Delmonico & Elizabeth Griffin
|Carnes, P., Delmonico, D., & Griffin, E. (2007). In The Shadows of the Net: Breaking Free of Compulsive Online Sexual Behaviour. Hazelden Information & Educational Services.
A book to equip readers with specific strategies for recognizing and changing compulsive sexual behaviours; includes real-life stories.
|Understanding and Treating Sex Addiction: A comprehensive guide for people who struggle with sex addiction and those who want to help them
|Hall, P. (2012). Understanding and Treating Sex Addiction: A comprehensive guide for people who struggle with sex addiction and those who want to help them. UK: Routledge.
This book explores the latest scientific understandings and research into why things such as pornography and cybersex can come to control some people’s lives, along with techniques for stopping compulsive behaviours.
|Stop It Now!
|Stop It Now!, a campaign run by The Lucy Faithfull Foundation, works with those worried about their own sexual thoughts or behaviour towards children, including those with concerns about their online behaviour. Stop It Now! operates a confidential, anonymous, helpline: 0808 1000 900. The helpline operates between 9am-9pm Monday-Thursday, and 9am-5pm Friday.
|Unlock is a charity which provides information, advice, training and advocacy, dealing with the ongoing effects of criminal convictions.
|Your Brain on Porn
|This site focuses on porn’s effects on the brain.
|Covenant Eyes is an ‘Internet Accountability and Filtering’ Software. The software sends the selected monitor a report of the websites/search terms you have used.
|Sex Addicts Anonymous
|SAA is a group-based support network, to help people find freedom from addictive sexual behaviour and promotes recovery from sex addiction.
|SA’s primary purpose is: “to stay sexually sober and help other sexaholics to achieve sobriety”.
|The Lucy Faithfull Foundation: Inform Plus Course
|The Lucy Faithfull Foundation (LFF) runs the Stop It Now! Campaign. The LFF also runs a course for arrested internet offenders, called Inform Plus. Inform Plus comprises 10, weekly, 2.5 hour sessions focusing on understanding offending behaviour and preventing relapse.
|The Counselling Directory
|This website explains what counselling is, and provides practical information on what type of counselling you may need and where to find it.
|British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) provide information on their website regarding therapists who specialise in this area.
|The Law Society
|You can locate a solicitor who specialises in Criminal Law via The Law Society website.
|020 7493 4488
|Sexual addiction counselling and therapy in London.
|College of Sexual Relationship Therapists’
|020 8543 2707
|COSRT is the UK’s leading organisation for therapists specialising in sexual and relationship issues.
|0300 100 1234
|Provides counselling, support and information for relationships.
|Tavistock and Portman Clinic
|Offers specialised long-term psychoanalytic psychotherapeutic help to people who suffer from problems arising from delinquent, criminal or violent behaviour or from disturbing and damaging sexual behaviours or experiences.
|Stop It Now! helpline
|0808 1000 900
|Free to phone from a landline; you can call us confidentially and anonymously. The helpline operates between 9am-9pm Monday-Thursday, and 9am-5pm Friday.
|0845 7116 123
|“If there’s something troubling you, then get in touch.” Calls will cost 2p per minute plus your telephone company’s access charge.
|MIND is a mental health charity; 0300 123 3393.