Photos of a child’s sexual abuse are still being shared online, six years after she was rescued from her abuser.
The Internet Watch Foundation’s report Once Upon A Year chronicles the experience of a child referred to as Olivia, who was raped and sexually tortured as a child.
Her abuse began at the age of three and she was rescued from her abuser in 2013 at the age of eight, according to the IWF.
The abuser was jailed but that has not stopped images of the abuse being shared online.
IWF is a charity which tries to stop the spread of child abuse images online. Team members search for abuse images and then try to get them removed from the internet.
In the report, a team member said Olivia was abused by someone she trusted.
The IWF does not know the case details for legal reasons but they are told when their work results in someone being protected.
They said that the availability of images of Olivia’s abuse, however, were allowing heartless offenders to share and probably profit from Olivia’s misery.
To show exactly what ‘repeat victimisation’ means, we counted the number of times we saw Olivia’s image online during a three-month period.
We saw her at least 347 times. On average, that’s five times each and every working day.
In three out of five times she was being raped, or sexually tortured. Some of her images were found on commercial sites. This means that in these cases, the site operator was profiting from this child’s abuse, the IWF said.
We simply don’t know if Olivia was aware that images of her abuse were being shared online. If she was, it’s difficult to imagine how traumatic that knowledge must be, particularly for someone so young.
However, we do know, from talking to adults who have suffered re-victimisation, that it’s a mental torture that can blight lives and have an impact on their ability to leave the abuse in the past.
Knowing an image of your suffering is being shared or sold online is hard enough. But for survivors, fearing that they could be identified, or even recognised as an adult is terrifying.
Olivia’s story was released alongside a report showing that the charity found a record 105,047 URLs last year containing images of sexual abuse, much of it being shared on a commercial basis.
Only 0.4% of these were hosted in the UK and almost half of the imagery was discovered in the Netherlands.
Earlier this year, Home Secretary Sajid Javid vowed to do more to stop child abuse online, but IWF chief executive Susie Hargreaves OBE said the problem was far from being solved.
She added: The cause of the problem is the demand. Unfortunately, and as the police tell us often, there are 100,000 people sitting in the UK right now demanding images of the abuse of children like Olivia.
Vinous Ali, the head of policy for industry body techUK, told Sky News: At first-glance the fact that the IWF processed 73% more reports of CSE material this year compared to last year is horrifying.
However, this means more of this material is now being identified, assessed and removed than ever before. This has been a joint effort between the IWF, industry actors and law enforcement who are developing new ways of working and new technologies to speed up detections and take downs.
While it is a step in the right direction to hear that the amount of child sexual abuse imagery hosted in the UK is at its lowest level ever, there is still much more to do and industry remains committed to continue working with the IWF and others to rid the internet of this criminal material.
(c) Sky News 2019: Child abuse images still online six years after victim’s rescue