29% rise in counselling sessions on peer sexual abuse

Childline relaunches #ListenToYourSelfie campaign about healthy and unhealthy relationships

Childline has re-launched its #ListenToYourSelfie campaign after it held 3,878 counselling sessions about peer-on-peer sexual abuse in 2017/18 - a 29% rise since last year1 . 

#ListenToYourSelfie aims to prevent peer-on-peer abuse and encourgages young people to seek help if they're in an unhealthy relationship.

Young people who spoke to Childline revealed a lack of understanding about consent, with some feeling unsure if something was abuse when they were in a relationship.

They were also unclear if they had consented to having sex if:

    • they were drunk at the time
    • were unconscious
    • had previously said yes
    • or had not said no but had shown other signs of not wanting to have sex.

Childline's #ListenToYourSelfie campaign

#ListenToYourSelfie is a Childline campaign that encourages young people to listen to their gut feeling in a relationship.

Childline are promoting the online tool 'Looking out for Lottie' to help young people recocognise when a relationship doesn't feel right. In this fictional story, developed by the International Centre for Childline Protection at the University of Kent, Lottie is pressured into sending naked images online. Young people can follow Lottie's story on Childline through her social media accounts to help them spot the signs of an unhealthy relationship. 

The campaign also features two video stories about young people in unhealthy relationships. Lara's story is about being pressured into sex, while Paul's story is about sending naked images online. 

"My boyfriend is sometimes violent towards me and recently he’s forced me into doing sexual things when I didn't want to. I'm scared of how he would react if I tried to end the relationship. I don't feel like I can speak to someone without my parents or friends at school finding out. I'm really scared."
14 year old girl who contacted Childline

Teaching young people about consent

We're calling for both Relationships Education in primary schools (RE) and Relationships and Sex Education in secondary schools (RSE) to teach what abuse is and how to recognise the signs. This will include teaching young people about boundaries, respect and consent.

We've also produced online courses on managing sexualised behaviour in primary and secondary schools to help professionals.

Call the NSPCC helpline

If you're worried about a child, even if you're unsure, contact our professional counsellors for help, advice and support.

Call us or email help@nspcc.org.uk.

0808 800 5000

Report a concern

When sexual exploitation happens online, young people may be persuaded, or forced, to:

  • send or post sexually explicit images of themselves
  • take part in sexual activities via a webcam or smartphone
  • have sexual conversations by text or online.

Abusers may threaten to send images, video or copies of conversations to the young person's friends and family unless they take part in other sexual activity.

Images or videos may continue to be shared long after the sexual abuse has stopped.

Dame Esther Rantzen, Founder of ChildlineDame Esther Rantzen, Founder and President of Childline said

"We know that relationships can be confusing and it can be hard to know if the dynamic is changing and things are starting to go wrong. 

“If you ever feel pressured to do something you don’t want to, we urge you to get support, either from a friend, a trusted adult or Childline.”


Childline is our free, confidential helpline for children and young people. Whenever children need us, Childline is there for them – online, on the phone, anytime.

0800 1111

Visit childline.org.uk


All names and potentially identifying details have been changed to protect the identity of the child or young person. Quotes are created from real Childline contacts but are not necessarily direct quotes from the young person.


  1. 1. In 2016/17 there were 3,004 Childline counselling sessions about peer-on-peer sexual abuse. In 2017/18 this had increased to 3,878, an increase of 29%.