Stop it now! Confidential Helpline 0808 1000 900

Isolation, unemployment and escalating pornography habits contribute to a record rise in people seeking help to stop viewing sexual images of children

01 March 2022

Stop It Now! UK and Ireland, the UK’s first confidential and anonymous helpline that supports people who are worried about their own or someone else’s sexual thoughts, feelings and behaviour towards children, urges people to get support to stop viewing sexual images of under 18s online.

New data released today by the charity shows a significant increase in the number of contacts to the helpline and visits to the online self-help website, during the charity’s 20th anniversary year.

Online offending is likely to have increased from the effects of the global pandemic

Insights show that a large proportion of people contacting Stop It Now! mention increased isolation, unemployment, mental health issues, relationship breakdowns and escalating porn habits, as key factors that have contributed to their or a loved one’s online offending.

Data shows that porn consumption increased during the pandemic, with people living in the UK viewing more adult content than ever before. This increase in the use of legal online adult pornography led some people to look for ‘riskier’ material and begin to view illegal sexual images of under 18s.

During 2021:

  • the number of people seeking help via the Stop It Now! helpline or online self-help modules to stop viewing sexual images of children increase by 107% to over 165,000
  • following a collaboration that began a year ago with MindGeek, owners of several adult pornography sites, over 2,714 people visited the Stop It Now! ‘Get Help’ self-help website after receiving a warning after attempting to fin sexual images of under 18s online
  • over 3,500 people spoke with our helpline advisors with concerns about online sexual behaviours towards children
  • 27% of people visiting the online self-help modules were concerned about the online behaviour of another adult

Confidential help and support to stop illegal online behaviour

Since 2002, the Stop It Now! helpline has supported over 60,000 people to tackle their or a loved one’s concerning online behaviours, and as a result helped to protect thousands of children across the country. The helpline supports any adult concerned about child sexual abuse and its prevention, including those worried about their own or another adult’s sexual thoughts or behaviours.

Stop It Now! campaigns to prevent the growing problem of online sexual offending against children. It highlights the harm to victims, the personal and legal consequences for offenders and their families, and directs individuals to its confidential and anonymous helpline and self-help website.

Callers to the helpline concerned about their own or someone else’s online behaviour will agree actions to take with our advisors to help manage and stop this activity, both in the short and long term. All calls are completely confidential, unless information of a crime being committed or there is risk to a child and identifying details have been provided.


Donald Findlater, director of the Stop It Now! helpline, said: “Mostly, the tens of thousands of people in the UK viewing sexual images of children online don’t conform to the stereotypes – they are our friends, family, neighbours and colleagues.

“Many of the people contacting our helpline started out simply looking on mainstream adult pornography sites, but over time they found they needed different or more extreme content. Some don’t know the law and need it spelling out. A few are struggling with a long-standing sexual interest in children and think that looking at ‘only pictures’ is a way of managing that interest.

“Everyone needs to know that looking at sexual images and videos of under 18s is illegal; that children are harmed by it; that serious consequences await those involved in it; but that our helpline and website give anonymous, and confidential support and advice to stop and stay stopped.”


Andy’s story – a former offender in his 50s who sought help from the Stop It Now! helpline – says: “As a 52-year-old man when my marriage ended I thought my life had ended too. I had always had an issue with pornography from an early age and found it easy to slip into a fantasy world online. It wasn't long before I had gone from regular stuff to illegal, all the time ignoring the warnings and offers of help to stop.

“It wasn't until I had been arrested and served a prison sentence that I realised that I could not deal with my issues alone and I finally reached out to the Stop It Now! helpline and found that there were people out there that would listen and not judge me.

“Over months I talked to people who could really help me and give me a real insight into why I had offended and my behaviour. After working with them I felt for the first time for years I was in control of my addiction. I’m lucky to have the support of my siblings, who are helping me keep on the right track, but I deeply regret what I did and the harm it caused to children.

“I just wish that I’d had the courage to pick up the phone and call in those dark days. Things could be so different for me now, I would still have contact with my children, old friends and my life would be different in so many ways.”


National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for child protection, Deputy Chief Constable Ian Critchley, said: “Behind each of these images is a real child who is being abused and every view only creates more demand for these appalling offences. This is not a victimless crime and it is vital that anyone worried about what they are doing online comes forward and seeks help.

“In the year ending March 2021 there were more than 9,000 arrests and voluntary attendances for online offences, and we safeguarded and protected over 12,000 children6. The tools we use to track down those responsible are better than ever, and will continue to develop in response to new technology. We are committed to targeting the perpetrators of these crimes and bringing them to justice. If you think you can’t be found – you’re wrong. Just like the harm to victims, the consequences of offending can last a lifetime– you could lose your job, your family, and will be imprisoned and registered as a sex offender.

“Anyone worried about their own or a loved one’s online behaviour should seek support from the Stop It Now! helpline. You can stop your behaviour before it’s too late – or we will do our utmost to stop you.”


Talk to us for confidential support about child sexual abuse

Our confidential child sexual abuse prevention helpline (0808 1000 900) is available for anyone with concerns about child sexual abuse. Callers do not need to give identifying information, so can remain anonymous.

As well as our confidential helpline, you can get support from our experienced advisors through our live chat and secure messaging service.

Media enquiries

For further information, and to discuss interview opportunities with a spokesperson from Stop It Now! please contact:

  • Sophie Hornby, media and communications officer: 01372 671 943 or via email

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Harris Business Park
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For help with a child sexual abuse issue, call our
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