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NatCen study reveals importance of providing anonymous support and advice to help prevent child sexual abuse

15 May 2014

Research led by NatCen Social Research (NatCen) published today highlights the importance of providing anonymous information and support to prevent child sexual abuse, including the risk of online harm, such as people accessing sexual abuse images.

The research, co-funded by the Daphne 3 programme of the European Union,[1] focussed on the work of the “Stop it Now!” UK and Ireland helpline, and a comparable helpline operating in the Netherlands and involved interviews. Researchers interviewed 47 users of the helpline and 112 completed a questionnaire.  

Changing behaviour:

  • Two thirds of potential offenders who completed the online questionnaire had changed their behaviour to reduce their risk of committing an offence following their contact with the helpline.
  • The helpline did this by enabling users to identify their own problematic behaviour, realise this behaviour can change, and by identifying practical strategies to engender change, all of which led to improved ability to protect children from harm.
  • One helpline user explained: [The Helpline provides] very practical, very straightforward, sometimes difficult-to-hear advice … I have to say that it’s not always been the easiest things that I’ve heard.  It’s been quite upsetting, some of the things that I’ve heard and quite scary but … because they tell you the truth and say things as it is. Where they can’t give you practical advice or say ‘We’re, we’re not sure what, what will happen’, they’re very clear on what they can and can’t do to help you (user who had committed a child sexual abuse offence)

General use of the helpline

  • The research suggested that demand for the helpline has been outstripping supply. Many users described their own difficulty in getting through to the helpline. While the helpline’s own figures show an average of 2,199 missed calls a month from April 2013 – March 2014.
  • Users of the helpline were very positive about the support provided by the helpline. Emphasis was placed on the nature and quality of information, and skills, empathy and attitude of the staff (including their ability to challenge callers).
  • The research also illustrated the devastating impact child sex offences can have on others involved, including the families of people who commit offences such as accessing child sexual abuse images of children online.

Launch of European-wide toolkit

Alongside the summary of findings, NatCen’s researchers have a produced a toolkit for European organisations about how they can set up their own child sex abuse prevention helplines which is being launched today at an event in the UK Parliament.

Dr Carol McNaughton Nicholls, Senior Research Director at NatCen Social Research said: 

“Sexual abuse has long term impacts on the health and wellbeing of those affected by it. This study provides more evidence that we can stop child sexual abuse before it happens, highlighting the need for a truly comprehensive response."


The report and toolkit will be published here:

For more information contact Leigh Marshall: 0207 549 8506 / 0782 803 1850 or Naomi Joyner 0207 549 9550 / 0773 496 0069.

Notes to editors

About NatCen

NatCen Social Research is an independent, not for profit organisation. We believe that social research has the power to make life better. By really understanding the complexity of people’s lives and what they think about the issues that affect them, we give the public a powerful and influential role in shaping decisions and services that can make a difference to everyone. The Crime and Justice Team at NatCen specialises in research on interpersonal abuse and violence.

About Stop it Now! 

Stop it Now! UK and Ireland is a national campaign and Freephone confidential Helpline run by child protection charity, The Lucy Faithfull Foundation. It aims to prevent child sexual abuse by increasing public awareness and empowering people to act responsibly to protect children. Stop it Now! believes that it is the responsibility of all adults to take positive action to prevent the sexual abuse of children. Stop it Now! is an alliance of leading children's charities including the NSPCC, Action for Children, Barnardo’s, The National Association of People Abused in Childhood and Children England working with the government and child protection agencies, to promote public education and prevent child sexual abuse. The Stop it Now! helpline has been operating since 2002 and aims to prevent child abuse by encouraging abusers and potential abusers to seek help and by giving adults the information they need to protect children safely. The helpline is funded by the Ministry of Justice and The Lucy Faithfull Foundation.

About The Lucy Faithfull Foundation

The Lucy Faithfull Foundation celebrated 20 years of protecting children from sexual harm in 2012. Named after its founder, Baroness Lucy Faithfull of Wolvercote, The Lucy Faithfull Foundation is the only UK-wide child protection charity dedicated solely to reducing the risk of children being sexually abused. It works with entire families that have been affected by abuse including: adult male and female sexual abusers; young people with inappropriate sexual behaviours; victims of abuse and other family members. Drawing on expert knowledge about child sexual abuse the charity offers a broad range of services for professionals and members of the public. These include: assessments, intervention and treatment of known offenders, case specific advice and support, training and development courses and workshops, educational programmes for internet offenders and their families, circles of support and accountability, internet safety seminars for schools (teachers, parents and children) and Parents Protect! training for professionals, parents, carers and other adults. It also runs the Stop it Now! Campaign and Helpline (0808 1000 900) and

[1] Researchers interviewed 32 users of the helpline, and conducted two focus groups with 15 users, with a further 112 service users completing a feedback questionnaire.