Police Scotland launch campaign to help potential online abusers alter their behaviour

The police have launched a campaign targeting men who groom and abuse children online.

The campaign, entitled Stop It Now!, focuses on men who are either already offending or at risk of offending and directs them to support to help them stop.

Reports of online child abuse have continued to climb, with nearly 2,000 crimes recorded by Police Scotland between April 1 last year and March 31 this year.

During this same period, police carried out 700 investigations resulting in 500 arrests while 800 children were protected.

Specialist officers have already investigated 290 online child sexual abuse cases from April to August this year resulting in 149 arrests and 269 children protected.

The campaign highlights the consequences of offending for perpetrators and urges them to stop and seek help by contacting the child protection charity Stop It Now! Scotland for free, confidential and anonymous advice.

Detective Chief Superintendent Martin MacLean said: “Tackling online child abuse remains a key priority for Police Scotland, and this includes working with partners to prevent abuse and divert potential perpetrators from committing offences.

“Online child sexual abuse is not virtual – its repercussions are real, for the victims of these horrific crimes, but also for perpetrators.

“Grooming, indecent communication and causing children to participate in sexual activity are all serious criminal offences.

“We continue to build our cyber capability and expertise to identify child victims.

“Offenders need to understand they will be identified, arrested and will face the consequences of their actions: not just a conviction but the potential loss of family, reputation and livelihood.

“Abusers are responsible for their actions, it is up to them to take action and stop, to get help or get caught.”

Stuart Allardyce, director of Stop It Now! Scotland, said: “There is help to stop. It is easier for people to successfully change their behaviour through support than trying to change on their own.

“People who are worried about their sexual behaviour online can call us on our helpline.

“They can remain completely anonymous. We provide non-judgmental, confidential support to help someone stop their behaviour and keep children safe online.

“From the many people we work with and our research, we know that their frequent use, over long periods of time, of online legal pornography escalated to barely legal or extreme types of pornography and the viewing of illegal sexual images of children.

“Some of the people we work with discuss becoming more desensitised to adult pornography as time went on.

“Often, they feel trapped in a cycle of behaviour and require help with their mental health as well as their compulsive behaviours to take positive actions to break this cycle.

“If this is happening for you, don’t leave it until it’s too late to call. Many individuals who are arrested for this type of offence tell us they wish they had known there was support to help.

“We also work with families and friends impacted by the arrest of a loved one for viewing illegal images or engaging in illegal conversations online.

“From our experience, we know the devastation that can ensue once someone is arrested and the number of lives that can be changed forever.”

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2023, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Tim Goode / PA.