© 2017 Behind the screen. With special thanks to Rainbow Fish Foundation.

 THE RESEARCH 

Online Child sexual abuse imagery has increased

by 400% between

2013 and 2015 

Internet Watch Foundation 2013-2015

FORWARD

Who can imagine life without the internet? The ability to communicate with virtually anyone in the world instantly. An endless stream of entertainment options, largely free, at the mere movement of a finger. Amateur photographers and filmmakers with access to a global audience. Yet this same extraordinary human enabler, that we celebrate with wonder, has a troubling and disturbing underside. 

Online child sexual abuse is a topic most of us would prefer not think about, we would like to believe it doesn't really happen or at least that it only happens elsewhere - the unfortunate truth is that online exploitation of children is undoubtedly prevalent in Australia and it is increasing in levels which can be described as   a pandemic. Affected children are getting younger and the crimes against them are getting more violent.

Australian law enforcement and non-government agencies are doing an exceptional job in seeking to identify and rescue the children that have been harmed and capture the perpetrators causing the harm.  But it isn't enough - these crimes are increasing with some statistics suggesting the volume of child sexual abuse imagery increasing as much as 400% between 2013 and 2015. And those that are detected and prosecuted are only a fraction of total offences committed.

Australian offenders - those producing or viewing child abuse material - are being caught with not just an ‘album' of online images but tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of images and videos.  That is, hundreds of thousands of crime scenes; scenes where real children (and increasingly prepubescent children, toddlers and babies) are experiencing real abuse.

This research was undertaken fundamentally to help protect children from sexual abuse.  To do this, we need to better understand the facts about online child abuse in Australia - how many children are being abused, how offenders are getting access to children, who the offenders producing and viewing these abuse images are, and why they do it.

A problem of this magnitude indicates that multiple points of vulnerability exist and need to be addressed with a comprehensive and coordinated set of responses, many of which have been proposed at a high level in this report.  

The recent Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has clearly evidenced the long term damage to victims of child sexual abuse over their lifetimes.  With evidence of this abuse expanding and deepening online, action is required now to ensure this dark and devastating history is not repeated.  We can’t say we didn’t know.

THE HARD TRUTH

Over 150 million online images and videos depicting child exploitation in 2014. 

'NCMEC's Child Victim Identification Program

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) received 11,000  online child exploitation referrals in 2015.

Our research and findings confirm how modern technology and ease of access to the internet has resulted in the proliferation of child exploitation materials now available online. Court decisions support this conclusion and reveal how offenders now have access to tens of thousands of images of child exploitation and abuse, with commentators suggesting that such high demand will result in the further growth of the online child exploitation industry.

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