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MumsnetGuestPosts (MNHQ) Fri 15-Jan-16 11:48:07

Guest post: "To reduce child sexual abuse, we need a variety of approaches"

Parents and grandparents can play a vital role in preventing abuse but lessons can also be learned from offenders, says Donald Findlater from the Stop it Now! campaign

Donald Findlater

Stop it Now! campaign

Posted on: Fri 15-Jan-16 11:48:07

(27 comments )

Lead photo

"An estimated 400,000 to 450,000 children were sexually abused over the two years to 2014."

Since 2009, the child protection charity the Lucy Faithfull Foundation has run the Parents Protect website. On the site, we try to squeeze into one place the lessons that victims and families have shared with us over the previous 15 years, to give adults the information, advice, support and facts they need to help prevent child sexual abuse.

Some of this involves helping parents understand the sexual development of children from birth to adolescence. What is 'normal' or 'healthy' sexual development - and when should we worry? How should parents respond, for example, when a child attempts to touch the genitals of other children or, indeed, other adults? When should we worry about a child's sexual behaviour?

The website also considers the warning signs to look out for in a child who may be being abused. These include becoming unusually secretive or unaccountably afraid of places or people; acting out in inappropriate sexual ways with toys or objects; development of nightmares or sleeping problems.

In her 2015 report, Protecting Children from Harm, the Children's Commissioner, Anne Longfield, acknowledged that some two thirds of child sexual abuse occurs within the family context. Perhaps the biggest wake-up call was about the scale of abuse – with an estimated 400,000 to 450,000 children sexually abused over the two years to 2014.

The Stop it Now! helpline has dealt with more than 50,000 confidential calls. Calls from women worried about their brother's, father's or partner's sexual behaviour; calls from parents worried about their children.


The report calls for a radical overhaul of our child protection system, with far greater attention to prevention. But most of its recommendations concern 'recognition and telling' – seemingly resigned to the inevitability of abuse.

But child sexual abuse isn't inevitable, and at the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, we want to identify further opportunities to reduce the risk of it happening - for example, by being aware of warning signs in potential perpetrators. Of course, the only person who bears any responsibility for the abuse is the abuser; but for partners and family members, it can be useful to know what to look out for so that children can be safeguarded and abusers identified. These warning signs include regularly offering to babysit and insisting on time alone with children without interruption; refusing a child privacy in attending to personal matters; insistence on physical contact – hugs, kisses, wrestling, even when the child clearly doesn't want this; repeatedly walking in on children in the bathroom; and showing an excessive interest in the sexual development of a child.

Since it was set up in 2002, the Stop it Now! helpline has dealt with more than 50,000 confidential calls. Calls from women worried about their brother's, father's or partner's sexual behaviour; calls from parents worried about the sexual behaviour of their sons and daughters.The helpline's role is to prevent children from being sexually abused, so we also reach out to adults concerned about their own behaviour and offer them a confidential helpline too. This isn't always easy for people to hear about or accept, but we believe it plays an important role in the prevention of abuse.

Our helpline is a place where men who are troubled by their own sexual thoughts concerning children can go to get help. They are often in a lonely place, which can increase the risk of them acting on their sexual thoughts. The helpline offers someone to talk to and to advise. It reminds about the harm that sexual abuse causes and the responsibility to be safe. And it directs the caller to ongoing sources of support – to meet their own needs, yes, but ultimately with the aim of protecting children.

Child sexual abuse is not inevitable. In 2016 and beyond, I hope we all play our part in preventing it.

For more information on keeping children safe, see the Parents Protect publications The Internet and Children – What's the Problem? and creating a Family Safety Plan.

By Donald Findlater

Twitter: @StopItNowUK

MumOnTheRunCatchingUp Fri 15-Jan-16 18:57:18

Wow, lots of focus there on the 'males' being the abuser!!!

PetBar Fri 15-Jan-16 20:13:56

I thought this myself.

PetBar Fri 15-Jan-16 20:16:03

www.theguardian.com/society/2009/oct/04/uk-female-child-sex-offenders

weeonion Fri 15-Jan-16 20:38:36

Glad to see a focus on perpetrators. So much prevention focuses on victims or potential victims, which is necessary but I think we have failed to address preventing grooming and abusive behaviour.

Caprinihahahaha Fri 15-Jan-16 21:59:04

The majority of abusers are male.
The focus is on preventing abuse. If the majority of abusers are male then a focus on males is appropriate.

diggerdigsdogs Fri 15-Jan-16 22:02:08

yeah! What about teh menz! hmm

Or maybe it's about the children eh?

Caprinihahahaha Fri 15-Jan-16 22:03:09

What the fuck is the matter with people?

What is important here?

MumOnTheRunCatchingUp Fri 15-Jan-16 22:45:23

You can be concerned about both aspects you know!! hmm

Frankly I'd be wary of 'reports' like this. In fact no, it's not even an informed article . It's just some one who is 'guest post' so a randomers giving an opinion... Same as you get everyday in aibu, but this is dressed up as a campaign

Nspcc and other agencies are better informed imo

weeonion how have 'we' failed to address preventing grooming and abusive behaviour?

Baconyum Sat 16-Jan-16 00:12:55

IMO and I suspect many others especially survivors there is one main thing we (as in society but basically it'd have to be the government) could do that would prevent a lot of abuse - DON'T LET CONVICTED PAEDOPHILES OUT OF PRISON!

Numerous studies, admissions from paedophiles and evidence shows that they don't change they will offend again if they get the opportunity.

Also I'd like to see the police and courts being much tougher in cases of manipulative/abusive cases of underage sex. Eg much older men/women having relationships with underage teens. It rarely even results in an arrest let alone prosecution. And when it does the sentences are pathetic (especially for women) I realise as with rape of an adult its difficult to prove but even when there's been clear evidence it seems to be seen as 'just the way it is'.

It needs even more to be seen as unacceptable behaviour and this supported by prosecution and sentencing.

Caprinihahahaha Sat 16-Jan-16 08:22:40

Yes, of course one can be concerned about both aspects. That's pretty obvious.
But when one ignores commenting on anything at all except 'ooh but it's all about males!!!' it doesn't really suggest flexible thinking. Nor does it show any interest in anything except 'that snot fair'.

Personally I think we have failed to address preventing grooming and abusive behaviour by virtue of it continuing to be a massive fucking problem. Pretty obvious too. Surely.

Caprinihahahaha Sat 16-Jan-16 08:33:30

Child abuse continues to be a nightmare to try and curtail. The Internet and shame and stereotyping and hysteria are making it worse rather than better. The idea of a safe place for potential abusers to talk is uncomfortable but if we don't try new options after decade of the frankly damaging 'stranger danger' I don't see things improving.

The level of ignorance about what abuse looks like is depressing as are the regular 'should I report weird looking man in the park' threads.

All that has happened is that our children are even more vulnerable via the Internet and being a man with mental health issues or learning difficulties has become more lonely and dangerous.

HannahHobbins Sat 16-Jan-16 08:39:33

I think it was quite well written.

I haven't heard of the Stop it Now campaign, and as a teacher and parent I probably should have so it needs more publicity.

DioneTheDiabolist Sat 16-Jan-16 13:38:46

I am glad that interventions to prevent abusers abusing are happening.

Lightbulbon Sat 16-Jan-16 13:56:49

Compulsory sex ed would help.

Prevention should be the focus.

Parents need educating on grooming etc.

tb Sat 16-Jan-16 14:23:38

lightbulb Compulsory sex ed should help? Really??

It needs a massive culture shift, so that no-one would ever, in their wildest dreams, think - "What a pity, (s)he was such a kind person, fancy them behaving like that."

FWIW, I was abused by my uncle, by 1 friend of 'd'm, the 'd'h of another friend, an older girl in the church choir (? yes, really!! Justin Welby hasn't a clue imvoho) groomed and abused by a 24 year old when I was 13.

My dm was a pillar of her local parish church, WRVS etc etc.

I had talks from Relate at school at 15, or the Marriage Guidance Council as they were then.

The abuse started before I could talk. And I'm not the only one.

What good, precisely, would compulsory sex-ed have done????

Do tell, I'm all ears (not).

I suggest you do a lot of reading, some of it extremely dark

Courage to Heal
Healing the shame that binds you (toxic shame)
Boundaries and relationships

Etc, etc

There was a programme started in prison by a psychiatrist. It worked. Government funding was withdrawn in the very early 1980s. He had the most hardened criminals sobbing like babies due to the abuse they suffered, which they had buried and re-enacted on their victims. He stated that without exception they had all been victims earlier in their lives. Without an inner strength, professional help whatever, many of us could have taken their route.
He also emphasised that not all victims become abusers - thus trying to prevent a victim witch hunt. The most important thing for the victims is for them to heal, as that stops the cycle. At whatever stage that happens - ideally before they turn into abusers for those that have that propensity.

In the meantime have this biscuit

DioneTheDiabolist Sat 16-Jan-16 14:30:38

I agree Lightbulb.

DioneTheDiabolist Sat 16-Jan-16 15:30:16

TB, I am so sorry that this happened to you.thanks

I work with adult survivors of abuse and they all have said that sex ed from an early age would have helped them tell sooner as it would have given them the vocabulary and knowledge to do so.

TheChimpParadox Sat 16-Jan-16 18:07:30

Would like to see more research into the correlation between viewing indecent images of children and contact offences.

DonaldFindlater Sat 16-Jan-16 19:59:32

Hi. Lots to try to pick up from above comments.
I am glad my post has prompted discussion. Of course, mixed responses.
You know, there was so much I wanted to say.
My original " offering" was edited rather heavily, with suggestions for additional content.
There is no one, right way to prevent child sexual abuse. Some might be prevented by helping protective adults notice warning signs, so they take preventative steps. Some might be prevented by giving children across all ages decent information - maybe the " Talking Pants" guidance from NSPCC; maybe reading "An exceptional children's guide to touch" with 5 year olds; maybe the array of relationships and sex education some schools bother to provide; maybe watching "Chelsea's Choice" at school with fellow teens. Some is prevented by imprisoning convicted offenders - both male and female! And then managing them well after release. But some who haven't yet offended, but may be tempted to, can have their consciences pricked and can be helped to develop skills and resolve to stay safe.
As for indecent images offenders ( online) - their behaviour is the focus of our current campaign, because police candidly acknowledge they know over 50,000 per year offend online, with only 2,000 or so arrested and convicted. Someone has to get to the 48,000 and try to stop them in their tracks. Continued viewing makes some more directly dangerous to children. But not others. This campaign has the support of police, other children's charities, Government Departments, Internet Industry - we rely on them for much of our reach and success.
I hope some readers visit the websites mentioned in my post. But I will be interested in additional comments and will attempt to respond.

DioneTheDiabolist Sat 16-Jan-16 20:38:31

Thanks for coming back Donald.smile

SINdicator Sun 17-Jan-16 09:08:19

As someone who has contacted Stop-It-Now, I would suggest there is a lot of ignorance and confusion about what paedophilia and child sexual abuse is, let alone how people subjectively interpret it. 400-450k child sexual assaults in two years? Sorry; “estimated” assaults.

Whenever I read “sexual assault” the image that naturally manifests itself in my mind is that of someone being forcibly and brutally raped. Of someone being subjected to a terrifying, potentially life-threatening ordeal. Perhaps it’s just me & testifies to a repressed moral delinquency - but I don't think so.

However, in all likelihood, the vast majority of “sexual assaults” are much less traumatic. That is; until someone points out to the victim that they aren’t.

Regardless of the subjective view on what constitutes a sexual assault, the focus of this article is about potential (mostly male) offenders and to highlight Stop-It-Now’s strategy in “prevention rather than cure”. An admirable endeavor, and considering all the negative consequences to both victims and perpetrators of non-intervention, one that offers a vastly preferable outcome.

After all; one thing that people rarely consider (whilst mirroring the condemnations of the media) is that it affects exponentially more than just the perpetrator and victim(s). Nor do they consider, perhaps, how victims are adversely affected by the media and justice system in those cases that are brought to trial.

It is still the case, however, that as much as the Lucy Faithfull Foundation’s and Stop-It-Now’s intentions are in the right place, anyone who harbours inappropriate sexual feelings towards the youngest, unempowered, members of our society is highly unlikely to discuss these issues with anyone. Least of all a publicly licensed, if not funded, organization that has a duty to report them should they decide that the caller may pose an imminent risk of committing an offence.

All callers (who are concerned about their own thoughts/behaviour) may pose an imminent risk; and the more committed they are to carrying out an illegal action, the less likely they are to admit to it.

When our government wakes up to reality, it might consider that having an advice and support group like that of The Dunkelfeld-Project (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/in-germany-they-treat-paedophiles-as-victims-not-offenders-10387468.html) in Germany, where paedophiles, hebephiles or anyone who has difficulty in not recognising or accepting that persons under the local age-of-consent are sexually inert, can deal with these issues whilst being assured that they will be treated with the same, if not a higher, level of confidentiality as they would get from their doctor. In so doing, it might be more understood as a condition that is neither welcomed nor appreciated by those who suffer with it.

Caprinihahahaha Sun 17-Jan-16 09:16:39

Whilst I agree with the bulk of your post SIN I can't agree with your interpretation of sexual assault.

Yes, if I hear a reference to a sexual assault upon an adult woman it suggests to me violence and attack.
But that is absolutely not the case if I hear a crime against a child being described as a sexual assault. My instinct is that a child has been groomed or was too young to understand the context of what was being done to them.
Possibly that's because of my experience.

I have no idea how estimates of child abuse are reached. I've never reported my childhood and of the people I know who were abused, none of them have reported or sought help either.

DonaldFindlater Sun 17-Jan-16 20:49:05

I hope my involvement in this post has not discouraged discussion. That is the last thing I'd want! But I note the distinct slow down in contributions following my joining!
Can I agree that talk of " sexual assault" can be unhelpful. Hence my commenting about child sexual abuse - which, frequently, does not involve physical violence as is commonly understood - but rather emotional violence, manipulation of relationship, exploitation of the innocence and vulnerability which accompany childhood.
Regarding the estimates from the Children's Commissioner Report I mentioned - that 400,000 to 450,000 children were sexually abused over two years - these numbers were calculated based on number of children who were identified as abused, and using a statistical method that concluded only one in 8 victims had been identified. Of course there is no way of knowing how accurate such calculations are - we will never know the real scale. We do know it is far, far greater than is known to agencies. There are other estimates from prevalence studies ( for example, NSPCC in 2011), which were quoted by the Children's Commissioner and suggest over 1 in 10 children are abused in UK before the age 18.
I accept that many who are tempted by sexual thoughts involving children may not seek help. But I am clear that some will and do. Our current campaign involving indecent images online is prompting a massive increase in calls to the Stop it Now! helpline. These calls from men troubled by what they have done online. But also from parents concerned about their children's online behaviour as well as from adults - mostly female- worried about a male loved one's behaviour. All can play a part in prevention.
As I said previously, there is no single solution. But if we all, in our millions, play our part, we can deliver a major reduction in the scale and impact of child sexual abuse. This is why I was so pleased for Parents Protect to become a guest campaign on Mumsnet, where there are so many individuals in positions to keep children safe; as well as to keep the adults around them safer and more accountable, too.

VivianRubio Mon 18-Jan-16 08:34:14

Message deleted by MNHQ. Here's a link to our Talk Guidelines.

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