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Study sheds light on severity of child sexual abuse images and new initiative aimed at victims

Extreme young age of victims and severity of abuse underscores need for immediate action


For Immediate Release

WINNIPEG, MB – A new study by the Canadian Centre for Child Protection (Canadian Centre) reinforces concerns regarding the scope and severity of child sexual abuse imagery and underscores the need for additional solutions.

“What makes this particularly concerning is the very young age of the children in the images. These children are most likely being sexually abused by someone they know,” said Lianna McDonald, Executive Director of the Canadian Centre for Child Protection. “Not only is it devastating for a child to be abused, but to have the abuse recorded and distributed on the Internet adds another layer of trauma.”

The report, Child Sexual Abuse Images on the Internet: A Cybertip.ca Analysis, is based on the review of close to 152,000 reports, examining 43,762 unique images and videos classified as child pornography. Nearly 80% of the images assessed by Cybertip.ca depicted very young, pre-pubescent children under 12 years of age– with the majority of those being under the age of 8, and nearly 7% were babies or toddlers. Most concerning was the severe abuse depicted. 50% of all images showed explicit sexual activity and assaults – and almost 70% of the images appeared to have been taken within a home setting.

“Child sexual abuse and exploitation is a particularly horrific crime,” said RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson. “That is why we continue to focus our policing efforts to rescue victims and help bring those to justice who misuse technology to victimize children. We need to enhance the tools law enforcement requires to prevent and investigate these serious crimes against children.”

The report highlights the seriousness of this issue and proves that more needs to be done to identify these victims, stop offenders and reduce the online availability of this content. Building public awareness on the issue of child sexual abuse and encouraging adults to report is another highlighted outcome.

Victims whose sexual abuse has been recorded and distributed online require specialized support services. To better understand this aspect, the Canadian Centre will be conducting a survey of the first generation of victims whose abuse has been distributed online, and has put together a working group of international experts to assist in its efforts. The goal of the survey will be to learn about the unique impacts experienced by this population, as well as determine what policy, legislative and therapeutic changes are required to respond to the unique needs of these victims.

“As a victim of this most horrific form of child sexual exploitation, I have felt alone, misunderstood and helpless. It is time for the world to understand child pornography and the unimaginable impacts it has on us, the victims. We need to find our voice to help those who wish to better understand and help us,” said a survivor of child sexual abuse whose images were distributed online.

The Canadian Centre will collaborate with the working group and set out a series of recommendations in late spring with regard to improved intervention and responses to victims of child sexual abuse imagery. A report will also be shared with stakeholders on best practices and considerations related to addressing this population’s needs.

“It is time that as a society, we take responsibility for the harsh realities that these victims face when the sexual abuse perpetrated against them has been recorded, posted and shared online,” said McDonald. “Victims often describe the lack of control over the ongoing sharing of their abuse images and the public accessibility as one of the most difficult aspect to overcome – and this needs to change.”

The Canadian Centre for Child Protection in collaboration with international partners will be reaching out to encourage other potential victims to come forward and seek assistance. A video message of hope has been recorded by a survivor whose sexual abuse was recorded and distributed on the Internet in an effort to reach other victims.

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