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Police Scotland campaign targets sexual perpetrators as reports of online child abuse rise

By Val Sweeney

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Police Scotland in partnership with Stop It Now! Scotland has launched a new campaign targeting sexual perpetrators who groom and abuse children online.
Police Scotland in partnership with Stop It Now! Scotland has launched a new campaign targeting sexual perpetrators who groom and abuse children online.

Police Scotland has launched a new campaign targeting sexual perpetrators who groom and abuse children online.

The #GetHelpOrGetCaught campaign, in partnership with Stop It Now! Scotland, targets 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 continue to increase, with nearly 2000 crimes recorded by Police Scotland between April 1 2022 and March 31 2023.

During the same period, Police Scotland carried out 700 investigations resulting in 500 arrests, and 800 children were protected.

So far this year, (April 1 to August 31), specialist officers have investigated 290 online child sexual abuse cases resulting in 149 arrests and 269 children protected.

Featuring a film produced by Stop It Now! Scotland, the campaign highlights the consequences of offending for perpetrators and urges them to stop and seek help.

Detective Chief Superintendent Martin MacLean said tackling online child abuse remained a key priority for Police Scotland and this included working with partners to prevent abuse and divert potential perpetrators from committing offences.

"Online child sexual abuse is not virtual," he said.

"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 help was available to stop.

"It is easier for people to successfully change their behaviour through support than trying to change on their own," he said.

"People who are worried about their sexual behaviour online can call us on our helpline. They can remain completely anonymous. We provide non-judgemental, 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."

The Stop it Now freephone, confidential and anonymous helpline can be called on 0808 1000 900. Go to www.stopitnow.org.uk/scotland for more information.

Adults concerned about a child’s welfare can call the NSPCC’s Helpline on 0808 800 5000 and can visit www.nspcc.org.uk for advice about helping to keep children safe online. Children and young people can contact Childline about any worries by calling 0800 1111 or visiting the site.

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