Winnipeg, MB: Last week, the Canadian Centre for Child Protection (Canadian Centre) convened the second in a series of summits for survivors of online exploitation through child sexual abuse imagery. The group of young women, known as the Phoenix 11, gathered at the Canadian Centre’s headquarters in Winnipeg to craft an advocacy agenda to change public awareness about the widespread victimization of children online. The Canadian Centre convened the initial meeting of the group in Phoenix in February. Last week’s meeting was the second in a multi-year strategy to advance the voices of victims and survivors who have been historically marginalized.
At first, it was really scary to meet other girls who had experienced the same thing that I did. But now that we’ve come together as a group we realize that we are no longer alone. Not only do we have each other, we have something positive to accomplish in the world. The Phoenix 11 is much more than a group of child pornography survivors. We are a force for real change to give voice to all the kids out there who have been silent for way too long.
Outcomes from the two-day meeting included the creation of a child sexual abuse images Community Impact Statement, which will be submitted in criminal sentencing proceedings throughout Canada and the other jurisdictions where possible. The Phoenix 11 also developed an advocacy agenda, which will be used to raise awareness about the unique challenges facing child sexual abuse imagery victims and survivors. Additionally, the agenda will encourage governments and NGOs to further the treatment and support of this population.
Joined by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, as well as the attorneys for several of the survivors, the two-day meeting focused on concrete actions which governments and companies can take to help reduce the availability of sexual abuse material on the internet.
“For a long time we only saw horrible images and videos of children being sexually tortured and abused. These kids, who look just like every child anywhere, have no voice and no humanity. We knew they were out there, but we only had the digital reflection of their experience,” said Lianna McDonald, Executive Director of the Canadian Centre. “These amazing young women, who call themselves the Phoenix 11, are so much more than the shadows we see online. They have hopes and dreams, and now they have each other and a mission to tell the world about what we need to do to rescue victims, support survivors, and punish offenders.”