Child sex abuse line sees sharp rise in self-reporting adults

More than half of the calls to a child sexual abuse helpline were made by adults concerned about their own thoughts and behaviour towards children, according to a report published today.

The Stop It Now! Helpline report said that between 2005 and 2009 the line received 11,975 calls from 5,634 callers looking for information, advice and support in connection with child sexual abuse issues .

Director of Stop It Now! UK and Ireland Donald Findlater said the helpline aimed to stop child sex abuse with preventative measures.

“Current public feeling about child sexual abuse, child abusers and the continuous headlines in the media do little to make children safe,” he said.

“They imply that child sexual abuse is inevitable and that the only response is to identify abusers after they have offended and punish them. But child sexual abuse is not inevitable, it is preventable. We need all adults to develop the skills and knowledge they need to play their part in keeping children safe.”

Over 50% of calls were made by adults concerned about their own thoughts and behaviour towards children, 25% by adults concerned about another adult and 4% by those concerned about the sexual behaviour of a child or young person. Other calls were from professionals (8%) and survivors of child sexual abuse (4%).

Those concerned with their own behaviour have shown the biggest increase on the helpline. In 2009 the line received 1,259 calls from this group, up from 267 in 2005. This shows a four-fold increase, which the report said demonstrates that the internet is a cause of concern for an increasing number of callers.

In most cases, the report said, callers had not contacted any child protection agency at the time of calling but wanted to take action to protect a child. In some cases calls led to contact with statutory agencies like police or children’s services.

Overall use of the helpline has increased over the years, with 1,834 calls made in 2005 and 3,182 made in 2009. Adults concerned about their own behaviour called an average of three times each, while those concerned about another adult called and average of two times. The report said many decided to give up their anonymity and come forward for face-to-face help.

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