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UK: Worried paedophiles call child abuse line

Publish Date: 15 May 2006

Source: The Times
By Karen McVeigh

Worried paedophiles make most calls to child abuse line

A CAMPAIGN aimed at preventing child sexual abuse has found that nearly half of all calls to its telephone helpline are from adults seeking help for their own behaviour, The Times has learnt.

Analysis by Stop It Now!, to be published next month, found that 45 per cent of calls over the past three years were from abusers or potential abusers concerned about their sexual feelings or behaviour towards children.

Although the helpline is confidential, between 30 to 40 callers have turned themselves in to the authorities.

Another 30 per cent of calls were made by family, friends and others, mostly women, concerned about another adult, and 5 per cent were from parents, carers or other adults concerned about the sexual behaviour of young people.

The high proportion of calls from abusers, described as “striking” by the organisation, has prompted calls for more treatment programmes for paedophiles.

The findings will also lend weight to critics of public naming and shaming campaigns — such as the tabloid newspaper crusade that came after the death of Sarah Payne — which, they say, drive potential abusers underground, preventing them from seeking help or being monitored by police.

Donald Findlater, the manager of Stop It Now! UK and Ireland, said that he had expected the largest proportion of calls to be from family members. “We didn’t know who would call. A similar helpline in the US reported that only 15 per cent of calls were from people worried about themselves, so we were surprised,” he said.

“What our analysis shows is that there are people out there, unknown to police and social services, who are troubled by what they have done or are about to do. Our job is to agree with them the different options that they can take today. The challenge for us is, can we help before a child gets hurt?”

Stop It Now!, run by the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, a child protection charity with government backing, was set up in 2002 to prevent child abuse by increasing awareness, supporting families and “empowering people to act responsibly”.

Since then the helpline has had 4,000 calls, with about half of them repeat calls.

One caller, Ricky, confided that he had looked at child pornography as a student and, while he had no sexual attraction to children, he had become worried about his past because his partner was expecting their first child.

He was advised that he had committed a crime, and told that he could hand himself into police, but he was terrified of the consequences. He agreed to visit a self-help website for those who had accessed child pornography and to discuss his concerns with his partner.

Vicky, 18, said that since her mother died 15 months previously, her father had started drinking and being increasingly sexually aggressive to her and her 15-year-old sister. She was urged to consider talking to the authorities but refused. They identified a friend of her mother’s, rehearsed how she would ask for help and she agreed to seek another place to stay until the situation was safe.

Ray Wire, an expert in child protection, said: “Like it or not, if we want to protect children we need to set up diversification treatment programmes for sex offenders. Victims’ groups are often against treatment as they argue they are being let off, but the price of our tiny percentage of convictions is children bearing the secret alone.”

One in three children does not tell anyone about his or her abuse and many cases of abuse go unreported.

Phillip Noyes, the director of public policy at the NSPCC, the child protection charity, said: “By enabling people who are abusing or thinking of abusing a child to come forward and seek help for their behaviour, Stop It Now! are playing a valuable role in preventing sex abuse of children.”

The NSPCC, which runs ChildLine, the helpline for children and young people, said that more than half of all calls concerning sexual abuse last year — 4,500 — were from children saying they had been raped, mostly by someone that they knew.


  • 1,581 calls to Stop It Now! in 2002-05 were from abusers or potential abusers (246 in 2002-03; 672 in 2003-04 and 883 in 2004-05)

  • The number of friends, family and adults who called concerned about another adult in 2002-05 was 1,190 (171 in 2002-03, 377 in 2003-04, 642 in 2004-05)

  • 204 parents, carers and adults concerned about a young person under the age of 18 called the helpline in 2002-05 (14 in 2002-03, 75 in 2003-04 and 115 in 2004-05)

  • The remainder of the callers included professionals, such as police, children’s services, schools and other organisations

  • The helpline received calls from women abusers and potential abusers, but the majority were men. About 37 per cent of callers were worried about sexual feelings and 29 per cent had been arrested. Some called more than once

  • The helpline, open Monday to Friday, is: 0808-1000 900

    Copyright © 2006 Times Newspapers Ltd