#ListenToYourSelfie campaign aims to tackle online sexual abuse

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Hard-hitting: (Above and below) Scenes from the two NSPCC campaign videos, The Party and The Game

Childline has seen a 24 per cent rise in the number of counselling sessions about online sexual abuse in the past year – with the rise in the use of apps and webcams being blamed.

Around 65 per cent of the 3,716 sessions during 2015/16 involved young people aged 12 to 15, while 28 per cent involved 16 to 18-year-olds.

Almost two-thirds of the sessions involved girls and 459 related specifically to grooming – an increase of 21 per cent.

The new figures come after previous NSPCC research has shown just how much the internet is used as a “gateway” by offenders. Last year, more than 3,000 sexual offences against children had a mandatory “cyber-flag” placed against them by the police, meaning that the incident involved the internet.

One 16-year-old girl who contacted Childline said: “My boyfriend is older than me and he makes me share pics and do stuff with other guys online. He gives me money and food when I go online and do things via webcam. I have not told anyone else what is happening, I am so scared and drink to forget.

“I am too scared to report him. I just know I am not normal, I am weird and nobody understands. I am disgusting, so rather me than another young girl.”

A 15-year-old boy told counsellors: “I think I’m being groomed. There is a guy I have met online and he asks if he can meet me and said he wants to buy me gifts. He has asked for pictures and one time I made the mistake of sending a nude selfie.

“He won’t show me any pictures of him, which makes me think he is fake. I have not agreed to meet him because I am scared. He has threatened to show my nude selfie to the world. I am gay, but nobody knows, so it would ruin me if people found out. I cry myself to sleep every night with worry.”

The NSPCC, which runs Childline, has launched two hard-hitting films as part of its new campaign, entitled #ListenToYourSelfie. The first, The Party, highlights peer-to-peer sexual pressure and grooming, while The Game focuses on a same-sex online grooming scenario.

Peter Wanless, chief executive of the NSPCC, said: “Most of us talk to people online and it’s a great way to stay connected and make new friends. But it can be a playground for paedophiles, exposing young people to groomers who trawl social networks and online game forums.

“Young people may not understand what is right or wrong in a relationship, or what to do if something makes them feel uncomfortable. #ListenToYourSelfie is aimed at helping young people recognise signs they are being manipulated, controlled or exploited so they feel empowered to make their own decisions or choices. We hope that by putting this in the spotlight we can help young people to feel able to speak up if they feel worried or scared about a situation or relationship.”


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