Lucian, age 17, starting viewing sexual images of children after meeting people on online chat rooms. Lucian describes his journey from sharing sexual images of children, to his arrest to receiving help and support through the Inform Young People programme.
My online experience started off really positively, talking to friends and talking to family on the other side of the world. Everything was sort of great – everything that I wanted it to be. Then I started talking to the wrong group of people. I first got talking through my ex-girlfriend, she was following this guy who was addicted to online pornography. That sort of made me think, ‘I’ll check it out’.
Then I started talking to Alex on Facebook Messenger. He gave me the website for online chat rooms and webcam pages and I started talking to lots of different people about what I was interested in. I was asked by this guy called Stanley to send him a nude. At the time I didn’t really think of anything, I didn’t let myself really think about it, it just happened. Then I found out that he liked it, so I carried on, because I knew that it was making him happy. One day, I asked if I could have something back and he sent me pictures of himself.
A few months later I started talking to another person called Amanda and she sent me underage images. It was silly of me not to delete these because I had no interest in the images. But I would use them to send to other people. Again, to make them happy and not angry with me. It didn’t feel right, but I still carried on.
The morning of my arrest I was awoken by a police officer, he walked into my room, saw my mobile and asked if it was mine. When I answered ‘yes,’ he seized it. I felt panic and was thinking ‘what have I done?’ and ‘what’s going to happen next?’ I was led downstairs to find two other police officers stood in my living room with my mum and dad. They asked me if I had been talking to people online about sexual subjects and I answered ‘yes.’ They then arrested me for having possession of indecent images of children.
I was taken to the police station and interviewed. This was really scary, it was my first time in a police station and I didn’t know what to tell them. I told them things that weren’t true, things like ‘it wasn’t actually me using the mobile phone’, ‘it was someone else’ and ‘I had nothing to do with it.’ Sometimes I lie when I think I’m in danger, as a way of putting up self-defence barriers. I wish I’d have been more open because then maybe the officers could have helped me more.
After I was released on bail, I was given a leaflet about the charity who run Shore. My nan and my dad encouraged me to contact them because they know me really well and knew that I needed support. I’m glad they did because my mental wellbeing has got better and I am able to talk about more difficult subjects with my worker.
When I first contacted the people at Shore, thoughts were going through my head like ‘Why does it have to be me in this situation?’, ‘Am I really worth it?’ ‘Do my family have to go through this?’ and ‘I don’t want to go through this.’ But I did contact them and they were really helpful, they understood my situation and suggested that I had potentially been groomed. I felt shocked, I thought it was all my fault and that everything was my wrong doing. I found out that some of it was, but also a lot wasn’t. I felt vulnerable and didn’t know how to react. I already suffered with low self-esteem and mental health issues so this didn’t help. They suggested I do the Inform Young People Programme, which I started a few weeks later. The sessions have massively helped with my self-esteem and mental health. My first session was scary, I didn’t know what to say. But the person at the end of the screen was very helpful.
I am in the early days of getting help for my online behaviour, but my opinion on online pornography has definitely changed. I watched documentaries that the helpline recommended on the Fight the New Drug website on the impact of online pornography on the brain and also the actual impact on the actors themselves. I think it is a terrible industry that can have a negative impact on the viewers themselves and also has an impact on the actors for the rest of their lives, mentally and physically.
My opinion on how to treat other people has changed as well. In relationships I thought it was correct to demand for things, want things and be given them first time without being asked. I’ve now realised that if I asked my partner to hold my hand and they didn’t want to, I would accept that – I’ve learnt to respect other people’s choices.
If you are in the same situation as me, know that there’s someone to help you. If you think you’re going to view online pornography or go into a chat room, try to do something that will distract your brain like a hobby, go for a walk or go and to talk to someone rather than focusing on sexual fantasies and behaviours. Sometimes the situations that you are in aren’t always your fault – you shouldn’t have bad feelings about yourself and if you reach out for help people will be really understanding.