George got in touch with the team at Shore after he had been arrested for his harmful sexual behaviour online. George describes how completing our Inform Young People Programme helped him to learn from his behaviour and see he could still have a positive and safe future.
I contacted the Shore team shortly after being arrested and didn’t really know what to expect. I had spent years talking in online chat rooms with people I didn’t know and while I knew my behaviour probably wasn’t healthy, I never thought that it was a big deal or something I would get in trouble for. Unfortunately, it took a knock at my door and a trip to the police station to realise just how real everything I had been doing was.
I’d had my entire life upturned, and my deepest secrets revealed to my family. I reached out to the Shore team, figuring it was worth looking into, but didn’t expect to get much out of it in all honesty. The first thing that struck me was how calm and helpful everybody was. I never felt tense or defensive while talking to the people there, which isn’t something you expect when discussing the things that we did. I was also put at ease by their efforts to maintain confidentiality and data protection. Emails were encrypted and surroundings were double checked when on zoom calls to ensure nothing I said or wrote could be overheard or stumbled upon.
I took part in their Inform Young People’s programme which was about 6 or 7 video calls that were tailored to my situation. I assumed this would be a bit like a school lesson or taking online courses, but the sessions were casual and felt more like a conversation where I would apply my own experiences to topics or points that were brought up.
We went over a wide range of topics, and while I did learn a lot of new stuff about addiction and the internet, it helped me in more ways than just gaining new knowledge. It was during these sessions where I first understood the impact of my actions, not on myself, but on the victims who are affected by it. When talking online or viewing images and videos, it never feels completely real or tangible. It’s this mindset that stopped me from appreciating the things I saw had really happened and hurt those involved. They are real people who think and feel, not just pictures on a screen. It was difficult realising the effect these things would have had on the victims and that I had contributed to it, but it was a big moment for me and helped reinforce my commitment to never partake in that behaviour again.
I learned new strategies for managing my urges and needs, some of which I still use today and have helped me stick to the promise I made to myself. The sessions gave me a space where I could talk freely about things you just can’t talk about with a therapist or a friend and for once in my life, I could speak to somebody about those feelings and concerns. At a time where I was scared and isolated, those sessions helped restore a little hope for my future and I’d argue I’m happier and healthier now than I ever was prior to being arrested.