Trigger Warning: Discussions of sexual violence and pornography
At LMK, we are concerned but not surprised by the latest National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) report which highlights a notable increase in sexual offences committed by children in England and Wales, with the sharing of explicit and intimate images by young people identified as a contributing factor.
Analysis of reported child abuse cases indicates that in over half of the instances, potential offenders were under 18, and activities ranged from what senior officers term as “exploratory behaviour” to more severe cases.
The rise is attributed to the widespread ownership of mobile phones and easy access to explicit content, particularly hardcore pornography. Ian Critchley, who leads the NPCC in tackling child abuse, emphasises the importance of parents initiating “uncomfortable conversations” with their children to address the issue.
Key findings from the report, taking into account data from all 42 police forces in England and Wales, include:
- In 2022, 106,984 child sexual abuse offences were reported, marking a 7.6% increase from 2021
- 73% of reported offences involved sexual crimes against children.
- 27% were offences related to indecent images of children.
- 52% involved reports of children (aged 10 to 17) offending against other children, with 14 being the most common age.
Despite the risk of abuse within families, constituting about a third of child sexual abuse and exploitation cases, this report highlights a “growing and concerning trend” in offences committed by children themselves. These offences include serious crimes like rape and sexual assault.
A notable category involves the creation of indecent images of children, taken by children, sometimes consensual, and at times coerced. Ian Critchley said: “It’s a crime to take, make, share or distribute an indecent image of a child that is under 18… whether that’s in a consensual relationship or not.”
“… It’s really important that young people understand that. While they may be in a consensual relationship at that time, once that image is shared or unloaded onto a platform it’s lost.”
The NPCC reports warns that young men are increasingly exposed to violent, abusive, or illegal content on pornography platforms, influencing their behaviour in sexual situations and potentially leading to demands for explicit material from others.
Ofsted’s review of sexual assault in schools and colleges cited in our 2022/2023 Annual Report adds to these worrying statistics, highlighting that 80% of UK school girls have been put under pressure to share sexual images of themselves and 59% of UK school girls have been videoed or photographed without their consent.
How can we help?
At LMK, we are committed to working with young people to help develop their knowledge and understanding around these topics. We often hear from young people who stumble across porn at a very young age, sometimes by accident – they respond to a pop-up or Google a term they hear in the playground and then they’re suddenly confronted by something they weren’t expecting.
As they get older the pressure to watch more porn, copy what they’ve seen, share nudes etc. grows. At LMK, we teach young people to question what they see online, not use it as ‘sex education’ or a ‘how to’ guide.
We teach them to look at these issues critically:
Where are the conversations about consent? Where are the condoms? Are those bodies realistic? How do you draw your own boundaries and stand up for what you want in a relationship, when someone is trying to pressure you to try something they’ve seen in porn? Are the acts you see in hardcore pornography really part of a healthy relationship?
We know it can be hard for parents and teachers to have those conversations – and one of the reasons LMK was founded was to tackle these issues in an expert but non-judgemental way.
Our specialised ‘Continuing the Conversation’ modules explore Pornography and Sharing of Intimate Images. These courses were initiated in direct response to feedback from young workshop participants, stating that they needed support to handle these issues in their daily lives.
Our Sharing of Intimate Images workshop gives young people a deeper understanding of the consequences of sharing sexual images and equips them with strategies to protect themselves, while our Pornography workshop challenges young people to think about pornography differently, debunking widely held myths and examining the effect of porn on individuals and their relationships.
We hope that together we can work to change the direction of these alarming statistics.
Please see some helpful resources:
- Childline: https://www.childline.org.uk/info-advice/bullying-abuse-safety/online-mobile-safety/sexting/
- NSPCC: https://www.nspcc.org.uk/keeping-children-safe/online-safety/sexting-sending-nudes/
- Revenge Porn Helpline: https://revengepornhelpline.org.uk/information-and-advice/about-intimate-image-abuse/what-is-intimate-image-abuse/
- Brook: https://www.brook.org.uk/your-life/sexting/