How we helped prevent child sexual abuse: Our 2022-2023 annual report
6 December 2023
By Deborah Denis, CEO of the Lucy Faithfull Foundation
Today, we’re launching our annual report. It comes at a time when it feels like there has been a heightened focus in many parts of society on tackling child sexual abuse.
Over 2022/23, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse published its final report, drawing on its 15 investigations and 19 related reports; the Online Safety Bill was subject to ongoing scrutiny and debate; and the proposed introduction of end-to-end encryption on platforms generated strong opposition from governments, law enforcement and charities, including ourselves.
But despite these high-profile events and challenges, it still feels like not enough momentum is being put behind preventing abuse before it happens.
Preventing harm from occurring in the first place
While that may be the case externally, it is not the case within LFF. This is my fourth year in post and I could not be prouder of all that we achieve to prevent harm from occurring. We have grown considerably over the last few years, both in size and impact. Day-in, day-out, our staff work so hard to keep children safe, regularly navigating complex situations and scenarios, while always taking a child-centred approach.
Our expert team of clinical practitioners delivered 243 assessments this year – that’s 243 cases where we helped families and professionals find a way forward and supported vital decision-making. Our Stop It Now helpline finished the year supporting a record number of people in one month: in March 2023, we helped 1,137 people, and across the year we helped 8,614. Our communications team worked hard to ensure more people know about the help we offer and we started new projects focused on preventing harm from occurring in the first place.
For example, we completed year one of Everyone’s Safer – our project to help tackle harmful sexual behaviour in schools, launched on the back of the Everyone’s Invited scandal and supported by the KPMG Foundation. We also started work on Project Intercept – a million-pound project to revolutionise warning messages online, supported by Nominet. In addition to delivering services, we shared insights from our work through speaking at events, conferences, taking part in roundtables and publishing three Faithfull Papers.
‘Are we a nation of paedophiles?’
We’re achieving so much at LFF, but as a society we remain behind the curve. Recently at an event, I heard the question: ‘Are we a nation of paedophiles?’ When estimates suggest 500,000 children are sexually abused in the UK every year, I can see how that question surfaced – the scale of the problem continues to shock and can instil a sense of hopelessness. Stories in the media would have us believe that everyone who harms a child is a paedophile, and committed to causing harm. But the reality is no, we are not a nation of paedophiles beyond help, and child sexual abuse is not inevitable. We just need to tackle it in the right way.
If society is to really keep children safe then we must work to prevent abuse before it happens – and for that, we need child sexual abuse to be seen, and treated, as a public health problem. Our work shows that some people will seek help to manage their sexual thoughts and behaviour before harming a child – in the last year alone, 600 such people called our helpline. We urgently need more investment in primary and secondary preventative activities that prevent harm in the first place. This includes activities that place the responsibility not to abuse on people who may cause harm – not on children to protect themselves.
As a society, we can do so much more to keep children safe. Now is the time to change the way we view and approach tackling child sexual abuse, and at LFF we will work harder to advocate for the changes needed.
I am truly thankful to all those who have supported our work over 2022/23. It is their generosity and support that makes what we do possible. Support such as that shown by an anonymous donor who gave £10,000 in the year and pledged another £10,000 for next. Support such as that shown by the amazing staff at the Bull’s Head Pub in Wootton Wawen, who along with their fantastic customers, raised £2,500. And finally, support such as that given by all those who gave their time, effort and energy to our 30 for 30 campaign – our fundraising campaign designed to inspire people to donate and fundraise to celebrate our 30th anniversary – which raised £6,400.
As we celebrated our 30th anniversary, we considered how far we have come since 1992. Over the years, in response to changing threats, we have created and delivered new and innovative services. Our audiences are much broader now and their needs more varied, and we are helping more people in more ways than ever before. We must ensure it is as easy as possible for people to find the help they need, when they need it, and we need to ensure our visual identity speaks to all those we seek to help.
Based on research conducted with hundreds of our beneficiaries, stakeholders and staff, we’ve created a new structure for our brands and a refreshed tone of voice. Our new branding is used for the first time in this annual report. I hope it communicates the confident, bold and innovative organisation we are. Over the next few months, we will roll this out across all our communications, and also work to streamline our websites. We shall lay the groundwork needed for us to continue to expand our reach and impact over the next 30 years.
As we look to the future, I send a heartfelt thank you to all our funders, donors, supporters and trustees who help us deliver on our mission to prevent child sexual abuse. And a big thank you to all our staff who have worked, and will continue to work, so hard every day.
Finally, a special thank you to Mike Harris, who will be stepping down as chair at our AGM this year. Thank you for all you have done for LFF, and for me personally.
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