Thirty-five men from West Yorkshire have contacted a charity helpline in the last 12 months to get help to stop viewing sexual images of children online.
And a further 70 from Huddersfield have searched its website for help.
The men called a confidential helpline operated by Stop it Now!, a sexual abuse prevention campaign run by child protection charity the Lucy Faithfull Foundation. The helpline offers anonymous, effective support for those worried about their own or someone else’s online sexual behaviour.
The 35 calls from West Yorkshire are a 30% rise in the number of calls received from the same region over the previous 12 month period. And calls from West Yorkshire in the 2015-16 period made up 2.4% of the 1,461 calls received from across the UK from adults concerned about their online behaviour during the same period.
In addition 70 people from Huddersfield visited the Stop it Now! Get Help website at www.get-help.stopitnow.org.uk over the same period to access online self-help tools and information to tackle either their own viewing of sexual images of children, or that of a loved one.
The figures for people accessing help through the Stop it Now! helpline and website come at a time when the police are reporting an escalation across the UK in online viewing and sharing of child abuse images.
In 2013 the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) estimated that as many as 50,000 individuals in the UK were involved in downloading or sharing sexual images of children but the National Police Chiefs Council Lead for Child Protection, Chief Constable Simon Bailey, said that at least 100,000 people in the UK were now regularly viewing online sexual images of children.
A conference is being held in Wakefield today to discuss the issue. It has been organised by West Yorkshire Police and is called Safeguarding Children in the Digital World.
Child sexual abuse prevention expert and founder of Stop it Now! Donald Findlater said: “Over the past 14 years Stop it Now! has worked with thousands of sex offenders, including many men who had been arrested for viewing sexual images of under 18s online. We help them change their behaviour and get their lives back on a decent track. Most had not thought that others would ever find out, seeing their online lives as somehow separate from the real world. Few had considered the consequences of getting caught. Following arrest, their lives are often in turmoil.
“Imagine what it is like for a husband and father to have to tell his wife and children that he has been arrested for viewing sexual images of children online. To have to tell his mum and dad. Then having to tell his boss. And then his friends. Most have bitter regrets about the harm they have done to their families, to the victims in the images they viewed, and to themselves. But they also tell us they might never have stopped their illegal online behaviour if they’d not been caught.”