Working to keep children safe in Scotland
Each year around six hundred individuals in Scotland are charged with viewing indecent images of children.
Recorded online sexual crime has risen since the start of lockdown, with 1,522 child online sexual abuse crimes recorded between April and December 2020, a 13.4% increase in the same period in 2019. This is 33.9% higher than the five-year average.
Since 2008 Stop It Now! Scotland, a project of the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, has been supporting men concerned about their sexual thoughts and behaviours in not reoffending, taking responsibility for their actions, and starting to move on in their life away from one of the most stigmatising crimes in society.
Approximately half the men contacting the service are in relationships, and many have children. Most partners and family members are oblivious to the offender's online behaviour before the police arrive with a search warrant. The arrest of a loved one for an online offence can be devastating for partners and families. A recent ongoing study involving service users found that 69% had clinical levels of PTSD. Children within the family are affected and may be at risk of harm from the arrested family member, and sometimes they have already been abused.
All family members need to work through feelings of loss, which may be material losses when the arrested partner loses their job, loss of intimacy and connection, loss of social status, through feeling they have lost the person they loved. In some cases, the loss is much more significant; the National Crime Agency research suggests as many as 1 in 20 online offenders kill themselves post-arrest and pre-conviction.
The Volant Charitable Trust has supported the Inform Programme set up to support close friends and family of men arrested for online offending behaviour with funding for the Family Worker. Typical attendees of the programme are wives and partners and include parents whose adult sons have accessed indecent images of children online.
Families are devastated by the arrest of a loved one. They are often left with feelings of distress, denial, anger, and hopelessness, with increased levels of depression, anxiety, and symptoms of post-traumatic stress, and initially unsure about the potential consequences.
The Inform Programme provides a safe place where people start to understand the offending behaviour, talk openly about the issues and gain support in protecting any child at risk. The group typically has up to six members who meet weekly for 2.5 to 3 hours for five sessions. One to one support is also available, and women get the most out of the services when they receive group and individual support.
The group work allows women going through the same thing that no one else can understand to help them discuss their situation in a safe, non-judgmental environment. It helps to dispel myths about internet offending and provide them with the facts, explore why their loved ones may have offended and develop practical strategies to plan for the future. This includes ongoing risk management strategies and measures needed to protect children, discussing legal procedures and implications of sentencing outcomes and the Sex Offenders' Register, providing emotional support to help alleviate stress and isolation, and empowering participants to aid their families' recovery. Two hundred forty people/80 families have benefitted to date, and Lucy Faithfull Foundation has been successful for three years of funding until 2024.
The Inform Programme is just one of many services delivered by the Lucy Faithfull Foundation to work towards preventing child sexual abuse in Scotland and keeping children safe.
‘The funding we receive from Volant makes an invaluable contribution to our family work. As numbers of referrals of family members increases over the 3 year period we have had to draw more upon our core funding to meet excess demand. Volant makes up around one quarter of the funding we currently dedicate towards family work. Thanks for all your support over the last 3 years. We are looking forward to working with you over the next grant period and growing our family work over time.’