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Christian charity says those viewing child abuses images should be dealt with 'very,very strongly' as cases double

by Sophie Drew

The number of people viewing illegal images of child abuse is believed to have spiked massively last year. 

According to charity Stop it Now! calls more than doubled in 2021, with over 160,000 people contacting the organisation for help after engaging with this genre of illegal images. 

That was twice as many as the year prior, which saw around 80,000 calls made to the service. 

Calls were made by those witnessing the content and those concerned about another person.

The statistics come, as the Government continues to debate the contents of the Online Safety Bill - draft legislation aimed at stamping out these kind of behaviours, and limit access to pornography for those under the age of 18. 

Christian charity CARE has been campaigning for stricter measures to be put in place. 

James Mildred, Chief Communications Officer, believes we need to tackle this issue head-on, he said: "I think there'll be a number of factors that lie behind this really, really shocking and tragic rise in the number of people who are looking at sexual images of children online and I'm especially struck by the fact that it can start just by adults viewing mainstream pornography, and that can then turn into a slippery slope.

"That as they're engaging with pornographic content online - as they're looking at some of the big pornography websites that can lead them, like a gateway drug into them looking at sexual images of children as well. 

"So that's why the government's move to address the ease of access that underage teens especially have- to pornography sites- is so so important. 

"But clearly, we also need to look at the penalties that are in place, for anyone who's found looking at images of child sexual abuse, because that is the worst kind of viewing that you can have online, and it needs to be dealt with very, very strongly.

Although there is no way of knowing exactly what is fuelling this spike in illegal activity, James believes we can draw a number of possible conclusions.

He continued: "There will be a number of factors, the pandemic would have helped the fact that more people spent longer online. 

"We also know that sometimes people with mental health problems can really struggle with pornography addiction, and low self- esteem can be a factor as well, we do need to look at these root causes. but the bottom line is we need to stop this from happening."

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