Ottawa, ON: Today, on the 15th anniversary of Cybertip.ca, the Canadian Centre for Child Protection (Canadian Centre) released the finalized results from its International Survivors’ Survey, with recommendations to address this horrific crime.
The survey was developed to better understand the unique challenges faced by survivors whose abuse as a child was recorded and, in many instances, distributed online. To date, 150 survivors from around the world have contributed valuable information about their experiences. Some of the results include:
- All 150 participants (100%) had their child sexual abuse recorded (images, videos) and 61% believed the recordings had been distributed online while 38% were unsure whether it was shared online
- Almost 70% of the survivors worried about being recognized by someone because of the recording of their child sexual abuse
- 30 respondents reported being identified by a person who had seen their child sexual abuse imagery
- 58% of respondents reported having had more than one person abusing them
- 82% of the primary offenders involved in multiple offender scenarios were parents or extended family members of the child
- 56% of the survivors indicated that the abuse began before the age of four, and 87% were 11 years of age or younger
- 42% were abused for more than 10 years
- At least 74 respondents (nearly 50%) were survivors of organized sexual abuse (abuse that involves children being subjected to sexual abuse by multiple offenders)
- 67% of the survivors were threatened with physical harm including being told they would die or be killed
- 85% of the survivors anticipated needing ongoing/future therapy
“These survey results shed a critical light on the new realities faced by victims of child sexual abuse,” said Lianna McDonald, Executive Director of the Canadian Centre. “In today’s world, there is a great likelihood that a child who is being sexually abused is also being recorded. This additional layer of trauma is unimaginable and can colour every aspect of their life.”
Law enforcement agencies and hotlines around the world working to reduce online sexual exploitation witness the evidence of child sexual abuse material every day that corroborates the narrative expressed by the survivors who participated in the survey. In the United States, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC)’s CyberTipline is averaging approximately one million reports of child sexual exploitation each month.
“NCMEC was honoured to support the Canadian Centre with this ground-breaking survey,” said Michelle DeLaune, Senior Vice President, Chief Operating Officer at NCMEC. “The unique anguish inflicted upon those depicted in child sexual abuse imagery had not been properly explored resulting in a tremendous gap in therapeutic services provided. Now, survivor voices ring loud allowing us to learn from their experiences and better tailor our response.”
Earlier this year the Canadian Centre announced Project Arachnid – an automated web crawler that detects images and videos of child sexual abuse for the purpose of issuing notices to hosting providers in order to request their immediate removal.
“When every terrible moment you endured as a child was recorded or documented in some way, it feels like your abuser behind bars loosens their grip, but they’ll always have a hold on you,” said a survivor who participated in the survey. “I have blocked so many of those memories out to survive and even just the possibility of anyone being able to relive those moments and enjoy them denies me any form of closure, any kind of peace.”
An international working group of experts contributed knowledge and feedback on the survey development and collaborated in crafting global recommendations. The survey results underscore the urgent need for the international community to take immediate action and implement the following recommendations:
- Reduce the availability of both new and existing child sexual abuse images and videos on the public internet. Consideration should be given to adopting Project Arachnid as the global platform for quickly detecting and issuing notices to hosting providers that have an obligation to then immediately remove the material.
- Improve education and training on the issue of child sexual abuse among professionals to empower them to recognize and respond appropriately. Those in a position to uncover abuse must better understand the dynamics of different abuse situations, the complex process of disclosure, and the role of technology in facilitating child sexual abuse.
- Strengthen the coordination and communication between all systems and entities that intersect with victims of child sexual abuse and online exploitation. This includes, but is not limited to, child welfare, schools, hotlines, therapists, police, industry, child-serving organizations, and advocacy centres.
- Develop comprehensive systems and remedies to properly recognize the rights and unique needs of victims whose abuse was recorded. This includes accessible, knowledgeable therapists and attainable mechanisms for receiving financial compensation. Survivors must also be provided with the opportunity to have their voices heard within the criminal justice system (e.g., victim impact statements).
“The stories of these victims show that we need to look into their experiences even better to meet their specific needs,” said Corinne Dettmeijer-Vermeulen, Dutch National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings and member of the survey’s international working group.
The Canadian Centre operates Cybertip.ca, Canada’s tipline to report the online sexual exploitation and abuse of children. The complete Survivors’ Survey report, including recommendations, is available here.