Work in Wales and Scotland, online deterrence, our forum, and the future: The Lucy Faithfull Foundation at 30

1 September 2022

For thirty years, the Lucy Faithfull Foundation has been at the cutting edge of offender rehabilitation and child sexual abuse prevention. While we have grown and expanded at a rapid pace, our goal of preventing child sexual abuse has never wavered and we continue to adapt our services to meet new challenges.

This special anniversary blog post is the third in a three-part series on the history of The Lucy Faithfull Foundation, celebrating our achievements, evolution and growth over the past thirty years. You can read parts one and two and  find out more about our history in our anniversary booklet.

Stop It Now! Wales (2009 – present day)

Recognising that child sexual abuse is a complex problem with solutions that will vary between places and policies that will differ between devolved nations, in 2009 we launched Stop It Now! Wales. With funding from the Welsh Assembly, the project aimed to expand on our nearly two decades of experience protecting children from sexual abuse and pilot and deliver services that would make a real difference to families and children in Wales.

Since then, Stop It Now! Wales has focused on working with families and professionals. From early on, we’ve worked to deliver public education sessions so that everyone can find out more about what they can do to keep children safe, as well as working with at-risk families to provide support where it is most needed. We’ve also delivered training and developed resources to make sure professionals in different sectors have the skills they need.

In 2012, the team published an All Wales Review on Child Sexual Abuse Prevention which called for the government to take a public health approach to the prevention of child sexual abuse.

Campaigns and advocacy have been a big part of our work in Wales. We’ve worked hard to educate and encourage the public to talk about child sexual abuse and give them the tools they need to protect children from harm. And we’ve worked closely with the Welsh Assembly, charities and other groups, including acting as joint secretariat of the National Assembly for Wales Cross Party Group on Preventing Child Sexual Abuse (Saving Futures), and supporting the National Action Plan: Preventing and Responding to Child Sexual Abuse, which was launched in 2019. The Welsh Government continues to support our work and has recently extended our existing three-year projects an additional two years to 2025.

Stop It Now! Scotland (2009 – present day)

Stop It Now! Scotland launched in 2009 with funding support from the Scottish Government. Scotland’s legal system and child protection arrangements are different from those of the UK and a service provided directly from Scotland can better respond to local and national needs.

Scottish callers to the main Stop It Now! UK and Ireland helpline can be transferred to the Scottish team working from Edinburgh and individuals can also contact the Scottish office directly. Each year, the team works with around 200 service users through one-to-one support and group work services including those for online offenders and their families. Research and staff skills have allowed these programmes to be expanded, including with Breaking The Links, an adaptation of Inform Plus for adults affected by trauma.

In 2018, a three-year action research project, Reducing Online Sexual Abuse (ROSA), was established in Glasgow, working with 61 young people aged 10-18 who had engaged in inappropriate or illegal online sexual behaviours. The project then worked with young people in a local high school, sharing research findings from the project and working with students to co-construct prevention initiatives that could be evaluated in the context of the school. Independent evaluation by Strathclyde University concluded that the work had made a significant contribution to child protection.

Campaigns also form an important part of work, including grooming deterrence in partnership with Police Scotland. In 2021, our #GetHelpOrGetCaught campaign won ‘Campaign of the Year’ at the 2021 Scottish Charity Awards.

Online child sexual abuse deterrence campaign (2015 – present day)

Online child sexual abuse is a huge and growing problem. In 2013, CEOP estimated that around 50,000 people were viewing or sharing sexual images of children in the UK, a number now likely to be in the hundreds of thousands. Senior figures in law enforcement have said that it isn’t possible to arrest our way out of this problem. So what else can be done?

Since 2015, we have pioneered a new approach, using a campaign to deter people from viewing sexual images of children, specifically people not yet arrested. Based on research with men that we worked with (previously arrested or sentenced for online offences) the campaign is designed to stop as many of them as possible either from starting or from continuing their illegal behaviour. The research identified clear messages that the men said would have helped them before they were arrested:

– clarifying what the law says – it is illegal to view, share or make sexual images of under-18s (also known as indecent images of children – IIOC)

– telling them of the harm done to children by making and viewing this material

– bluntly showing them some of the likely consequences of their behaviour on their families and themselves

– directing them to our anonymous, free, confidential resources that can help them stop

The research also found that these messages would be most effective when seen by men multiple times and in their daily lives. This helped guide the strategy to use a wide range of platforms to distribute campaign messages and raise awareness, including conventional news media, organic social media, paid digital adverts, partnerships and out-of-home adverts.

As well as this work with a broader reach, the campaign uses more targeted means to get messages to people at the point of offending. Working with Google and the Internet Watch Foundation, we serve warning messages to people who attempt dubious or illegal searches or visit websites on a banned list. Around 700 people click through from a Google warning to our online self-help each month.

The campaign was independently evaluated and found to be effective in driving people to our resources and in helping bring about self-reported changes in reducing or stopping risky or offending behaviour, and understanding of the law and consequences of offending.

Each campaign phase is evaluated and recommendations made which contribute to the planning and delivery of the next phase. Key activities from later campaigns include:

– addition of grooming deterrence messages since 2019

– production of two new short films in 2020 that highlight the consequences of offending and the help we offer to stop, focused on the fear of being caught

– regional partnerships each year with police forces across the UK, including the Met, in the north-west, south-east, south-west and West Mercia

– deterrence messages on MindGeek adult pornography websites, including Pornhub

– extensive coverage across national and regional media, including a campaign record of 291 pieces of coverage in 2022.

The Family and Friends Forum (2018 – present day)

Through our work with families of those affected by the arrest of a loved one for online offending behaviour (our Inform programme), we saw how beneficial wives, partners and other family members found the support of people in a similar situation to themselves. Armed with this insight, in 2018, we launched a forum for family and friends of offenders to allow more informal peer support with these aims:

– improving users’ mental health (for example, reduced feelings of isolation, dislocation, stigma and shame)

– enhancing users’ capacity to act protectively towards any children in their care (for example, increased confidence talking to children and supervising their contact; greater awareness of risk)

– increased knowledge (for example, of risks associated with the viewing of sexual images of children; criminal justice and child protection processes).

The forum sits within the section of the Stop It Now! website for family and friends of people who have committed online sexual offences, and the forum is designed to be used alongside these resources and other LFF services, including the helpline. The forum is publicly accessible and can be read by anyone, but users of the forum need to register on the forum to be able to post on it. New users’ posts are moderated by LFF before being posted until a new user is ‘approved’, after which, users’ posts appear on the forum immediately. This means that a large number of people can get support and information without registering by reading about others’ experiences and that once registered, users can build and be part of a community.

Forum membership has increased significantly between September 2018, when there were 49 members, to January 2021, when there were 1,171. Around 39,000 users visit the forum each year. Independent evaluation published in 2021 found that the forum had a beneficial impact on a majority of respondents feeling less judged, less alone, listened to, supported, able to ask questions, free to share thoughts and concerns, and more informed about issues and processes.

The Future

As we mark 30 years of dedicated work to protecting children, we must acknowledge that there is still much to do.

Child sexual abuse is a major public health problem affecting more than a million children under the age of 16 in the UK.

We will renew our efforts to make real our vision of a world in which children’s right to live free from sexual abuse and exploitation becomes a reality. We will do this by focusing on our strategic pillars of reach, research and advocacy.

Imagine… if all adults who pose a sexual risk to children get help before they harm a child.

Imagine too that all adults responsible for children understood everything they need to know about child sexual abuse to prevent harm from occurring in the first place and, crucially, could access confidential help when they needed it. Imagine… if, through research and development, we could anticipate the next serious risk that children might face – and create preventative interventions and campaigns ahead of time.

Imagine… if government decisions put children’s safety first, and public policy and services were designed with the prevention of abuse – rather than the response after abuse – at its core.

Want to find out more about us?

You can find out more about our history in our anniversary booklet and read parts one and two of the series.

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