More than 2,000 people from Yorkshire visited a website which offers help for those who want to stop viewing sexual images of children in the last year.
The charity which runs the Stop it Now! Get Help website says 2,226 people from around the region used the site in the 12 months to September 30, up from 1,268 for the previous 12 months.
In the same period 72 men from Yorkshire called a confidential helpline to get help so they could stop viewing graphic images of children, and 35 called with concern about someone else.
The number of online abuse images being shared is believed to be on the rise, with National Police Chiefs Council Lead for Child Protection, Chief Constable Simon Bailey, saying last year that at least 100,000 people in the UK were now regularly viewing online sexual images of children.
And a senior Yorkshire police officer warned last night that he and his colleagues were dealing with an unprecedented volume of child sexual abuse cases, “including non-recent abuse, ongoing abuse, online abuse and peer-to-peer abuse”.
Detective Superintendent Darren Minton of West Yorkshire Police said the number of abuse cases was “continuing to rise”.
He said: “It is positive that offenders are recognising their behaviour and seeking support to get help, however we know that many more are not, and are systematically complicit in the abuse of adults and children by viewing this material.
“Many offenders think that these offences are victimless, as they are not physically abusing the person or child in the images themselves.
“However in every image is a vulnerable individual who has been exploited and abused for the gratification of others.
“These crimes do not go un-noticed. Our teams are dedicated to finding those who view, share and produce this content and take positive action to bring them to justice.”
It is positive that offenders are recognising their behaviour and seeking support to get help, however we know that many more are not, and are systematically complicit in the abuse of adults and children by viewing this material.Darren Minton, West Yorkshire Police
According to analysis by charity the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, which runs the Stop it Now! Get Help website, men who have viewed sexual images of children are less likely to reoffend once they understand the harm their behaviour is causing.
Clinical manager Tom Squire said: “But there are still thousands of men out there viewing sexual images of under 18s. So we need to get to them too, to help them understand what they are doing is illegal and incredibly harmful – and to get them to stop.”
More than 900 of the visitors to the website came from Leeds and Sheffield, with hundreds more from York, Bradford, Hull and Huddersfield.
Professor Tink Palmer from the Ripon-based Marie Collins Foundation, which helps work with victims of online sexual abuse, said the statistics from the website were only the “tip of the iceberg”.
She said: “The market for these images continues to grow and we must all continue to work together to educate people regarding the harm caused and to rid the internet of this material.”