Recording of Child Sexual Abuse Haunts Already Reeling Victims: Research

By Bronskill, Jim | The Canadian Press, September 26, 2017 | Go to article overview

Recording of Child Sexual Abuse Haunts Already Reeling Victims: Research


Bronskill, Jim, The Canadian Press


Images of sexual abuse haunt victims: report

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OTTAWA - Victims of childhood sexual abuse often suffer great distress over the fact video or pictures of the crimes are circulating in cyberspace -- adding to the pain they are already experiencing, says a new report.

The existence of images that may still be possessed by the abuser or publicly available for others to see has "an enormously negative impact" on victims, says the report by the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, a national charity that fights child exploitation.

"The impact can persist into adulthood and may significantly reduce the ability of survivors to cope with day-to-day stressors, maintain healthy relationships, and reach their full potential."

The report draws on the experiences of 150 child sex-abuse victims from Canada, the United States and several European countries who filled out an extensive survey to help researchers better understand what they're facing as adults.

Almost 70 per cent of those who took part worried about being recognized by someone because of the recording of their child sexual abuse. One in every five reported being identified by a person who had seen their abuse imagery.

"It's not something that will ever go away. Being the adult I am now, my photos are still out there, as long as the internet exists my photos will always be out there," one respondent told the researchers.

"Sites will be taken down but new ones are somehow being put back up.... There is no way I can finally be done with this abuse."

The report recommends considering global adoption of a centre-developed tool known as Project Arachnid, an automatic web crawler that detects images and videos based on digital fingerprints of illegal content. The tool has already identified tens of thousands of online images of child sexual abuse.

When such material is identified, a notice is sent to the hosting internet provider to request immediate removal.

"We need other countries to be aware of it, that this is available," said Lianna McDonald, the child protection centre's executive director.

The researchers found almost half of the respondents were victims of organized sexual abuse, assaulted by multiple offenders. In such scenarios, the main offenders were often parents or extended family members.

Many victims did not tell anyone about the abuse until they were an adult. …

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