In September 2017, the Canadian Centre released results from our International Survivors’ Survey for now-adult survivors whose child sexual abuse was recorded and/or distributed online, with recommendations to address this horrific crime. Responses from 150 survivors from around the world have contributed valuable information about their experiences.
Some of the results include:
“Every free moment (nobody’s around) was made use of; I was never safe. The perpetrator made me responsible for ensuring that we weren’t caught. I had to keep watch over the door of the room where it happened and keep an eye out for bystanders when it happened in the car. The perpetrator took more and more risks. In the end it seemed almost as if he wanted to get caught…”
“He threatened to tell my family everything. He threatened to wreck my life. I’d no longer have any ground under my feet to exist. I’d be better off committing suicide myself before he got hold of me because that would be gruesome. I was to never tell about it ever.”
“I had to smile nicely and pretend I liked it just like those women in the movie because that was what the men who would get it wanted to see…. I just had to deliver what was asked from me. And that was the reason I quite soon understood it was meant for other people.”
“Yes. Memories and feeling of the past still affect me today like it was yesterday. The abuse broke up my family unit. I think about it when I see families together. I think about it when I see moms and daughters together that are the age of me and my mother and how our relationship could have been different if abuse had not happened. I think about it at school, because school is taking me so much longer to finish and how much harder it is for me to succeed because of the court I went through and the PTSD I suffer with every day. I think about it when I see children and families because I still mourn for the loss of my family unit I think about it when I have arguments with my husband because I have such a heightened flight or fight instinct that it gets hard to communicate my feelings.”
“I remember being humiliated when my abuser showed another child (whom I liked) photos of my torture (with ropes). I wanted to hide these images because of the shame, so disclosure would have been nearly impossible. Disclosure would implicate me in what I believed was a crime for which I was at least partially responsible.”
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).