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A whole family approach for supporting people when a parent has accessed CSA material

A new guide aims to help professionals to be confident in supporting the whole family when a parent has accessed child sexual abuse material.

18/05/23

A whole family approach for supporting people when a parent has accessed CSA material

A new guide has been developed to help professionals supporting the whole family when a parent has accessed child sexual abuse (CSA) material.

Written in collaboration with The Lucy Faithfull Foundation, the Centre of Expertise on Child Sexual Abuse (CSA Centre) has produced a free guide to help; providing research and practice-led information so professionals can confidently safeguard and support families at a time of great emotional distress.

In 2021, there were more than 850 arrests across the UK for accessing child sexual abuse material (including sexual images of children under 18) every single month. Of these arrests, many individuals will have been likely to have children of their own or in their wider family. Research shows that compared with those convicted of other forms of sexual offending, people who access child sexual abuse material are more likely to be married and have children.

Hundreds of families will find out a parent or carer has accessed child sexual abuse material each month, and the CSA Centre says it is incredibly important that social workers and wider professionals are able to make considered decisions to protect children in the home.

Authors say that currently, the ease with which child sexual abuse material can be accessed and shared has led to a huge growth in the production of this abusive content and the numbers of people viewing it. For the partners of people who have offended in this way, discovering that the person they love has been viewing/sharing child sexual abuse content can bring feelings of shock, fear, and confusion. They may feel people are suspicious, thinking they ‘must have known’, or that they have failed to protect their children.

The guide also highlights the impact on children saying this can be “devastating”. Issues arising from this can include dealing with the distress of their parents, being ostracised at school and in the community, experiencing verbal abuse, missing their offending parent, and often worrying about what will happen to them in the future.

There is also a significantly increased risk of suicide for men who are arrested for these crimes – estimated to be around 100 times higher than the suicide risk among the general population. Authors argue that mitigating this risk is paramount for the whole family's wellbeing.


The CSA Centre has identified a lack of knowledge and understanding of this type of offending amongst social workers and other child protection professionals, leading to varied and insufficient responses to families. Designed to address this and drive a confident response, ‘Managing risk and trauma after online sexual offending’ is a guide to help professionals to safeguard the whole family.

Anna Glinski, Deputy Director, Knowledge and Practice, said that with so many families affected by this type of offending, knowing what to do to safeguard and support children and families is vital.

“The production, viewing and sharing of child sexual abuse material is, and must be understood as child sexual abuse.

“We designed this guide specifically for social work practitioners and managers, to aid thinking when assessing and supporting a family where a parent is under police investigation for accessing child sexual abuse material.

“This is a time when all family members are likely to be under great emotional distress and where effective professional support can make a huge difference. Our hope is that with confident practice, the impact of such a painful event can be mitigated as best as possible, helping families move forward safely and healthily.”

''Online child sexual abuse is a serious crime with tragic consequences for the victims and their families,” Deborah Denis, Chief Executive of The Lucy Faithfull Foundation, said.

Previous research from the Foundation suggests as many as 72% of people report symptoms indicative of PTSD, as well as stigmatisation, isolation, perceived discrimination and financial hardship following the arrest of a loved one for viewing sexual images of children online.

“And while the specific experiences may differ from family to family, what does not differ is the huge impact on their lives and the lives of those around them, including their children,” Denis added.

“That’s why we’ve worked with the Centre of expertise on child sexual abuse to produce this vital guide, which aims to give social workers the tools to better understand the devastating impact that an arrest for online child sexual abuse has on families.

“We hope this goes some way to helping professionals make practical, informed decisions to support families, safeguard children, and minimise risk of reoffending.”

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