Extreme young age of victims and severity of abuse underscores need for immediate action
November 18, 2009
Winnipeg, MB: The Canadian Centre for Child Protection today released a new study titled Child Sexual Abuse Images: An analysis of websites by Cybertip.ca. The study reinforces concerns regarding the scope and severity of child sexual abuse imagery and underscores the need for additional solutions.
"Child victimization of any kind is a horrifying crime," said Peter Van Loan, Canada's Minister of Public Safety. "That is why we continue to support the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, which helps bring those to justice who misuse changing technology to victimize children. Through the National Strategy for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation on the Internet, our government continues to enhance the tools law enforcement need to prevent, investigate and prosecute these serious crimes."
The report was based on the examination of nearly 16,000 incidents involving sites hosting child pornography and the analysis of more than 4,000 unique images of child sexual abuse. More than 82% of the images assessed by Cybertip.ca depicted very young, pre-pubescent children under 12 years of age. Most concerning was the severe abuse depicted, with more than 35% of all images showing serious sexual assaults.
"What makes this particularly concerning is the very young age of the children in the images. These children are most likely being accessed and sexually abused by someone they know. Not only is it devastating for a child to be abused, but to have the abuse recorded and distributed on the Internet adds another layer of trauma." said Lianna McDonald, Executive Director of the Canadian Centre for Child Protection. "This is a call to action to all Canadians to learn to recognize the signs of abuse, and to report their suspicions of abuse. We need to disrupt and hopefully stop child sexual abuse and prevent it from being memorialized and traded on the Internet."
The report emphasizes the critical need for child sexual abuse education. Special attention should be given to educating children 12 years and under on this subject to help build their skills and confidence to possibly disrupt and disclose abuse. Building public awareness on the issue of child sexual abuse and encouraging adults to report is another highlighted outcome.
The study also provides an in-depth analysis of reports made by the public to Cybertip.ca. As a result of this analysis, a series of 12 recommendations were provided to assist educators, policy makers, and other stakeholders who are working to reduce the online sexual exploitation of children.
"This report clearly reiterates the importance of a national tipline through which members of the public can actively participate in child protection by reporting IT-enabled child sexual exploitation," said Superintendent John Bilinski, of the Canadian Police Centre for Missing and Exploited Children. "As a partner of the Canadian Police Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, Cybertip.ca plays a key triage role that allows police to focus their efforts on investigations while ensuring that the public receives accurate awareness and prevention information. This increased understanding enhances our collective ability to protect children."
At the time of the analysis, more than 60 countries were hosting child sexual abuse content. Additionally, in one 48 hour period, Cybertip.ca observed a website cycle through 212 unique IP addresses, located in 16 different countries.
"We know from our 35 hotlines around the world the challenges in addressing illegal website content. Offenders are taking full advantage of the architecture of the Internet, variances in legislation, and are deliberately moving sites to evade the law," says Ruben Rodriguez, President of Inhope (International Hotline Association). "International collaboration involving a variety of stakeholders is the only way we are going to successfully tackle Internet-facilitated crimes against children."
In addition, the study, which was done in partnership with Bell Canada, provides information on the global movement of child sexual abuse websites, identifies the challenges with the borderless nature of the Internet, and recommends additional solutions for tackling this problem.
"For several years, Bell Canada has been committed to fighting the online sexual exploitation of children by supporting Cybertip.ca. Our goal in funding this report is to look beyond traditional industry efforts and explore innovative solutions that may better assist in protecting children," said Mirko Bibic, Bell Canada's Senior Vice President Regulatory and Government Affairs. "We are optimistic that our investment in research and prevention will help ensure that technology is not misused to aid in the harm and abuse of children."
Solutions to accurately identify those who operate these child abuse websites include working with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to adopt standards for ensuring the validity of the registrant's personal information. This is one of the twelve recommendations identified in the report.
Cybertip.ca is Canada's tipline for reporting the online sexual exploitation of children. The tipline is part of the Government of Canada's National Strategy to Protect Children from Sexual Exploitation on the Internet. Since its launch, Cybertip.ca has received close to 40,000 reports resulting in at least 52 arrests executed by law enforcement and numerous children removed from abusive environments. In partnership with Bell Canada, Cybertip.ca's Research Series pulls together the most crucial aspects of the tens of thousands of reports submitted by the Canadian public. This report is the first in a series that will include the publication of unique research in the area of online child sexual exploitation, and will promote the creation of best practices for child protection in Canada.
Media Note: to access a full copy of the report, the summary report, or backgrounders on the report's keys statistics, recommendations and priorities for education, please visit the Canadian Centre's website at: www.protectchildren.ca or the national tipline at: www.cybertip.ca.
If you are a member of the media and would like to arrange an interview with one of our spokespeople please contact our communications team:
Communications, Canadian Centre for Child Protection
What is the Canadian Centre for Child Protection? The Canadian Centre for Child Protection is a national non-profit, charitable organization dedicated to the personal safety of all children. The
Centre's goal is to reduce child victimization by providing programs and services to the Canadian public.
What is Cybertip.ca? Owned and operated by the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, Cybertip.ca is Canada's national tipline for reporting the online sexual exploitation of children. Cybertip.ca accepts and addresses online and telephone reports from the public regarding child pornography (child abuse images and material), online luring, child exploitation through prostitution, travelling to sexually exploit children, and child trafficking. Cybertip.ca was launched as a provincial pilot program (Manitoba) in September 2002, and in May 2004, along with the RCMP's National Child Exploitation Coordination Centre, became part of the Government of Canada's National Strategy to Protect Children from Sexual Exploitation on the Internet.
On average, Cybertip.ca receives more than 700 reports and 100,000 page views to its website per month. Cybertip.ca analysts review all reports and forward those with potentially illegal content to police. Reports have resulted in a number of arrests, as well as numerous children being removed from abusive environments. (Analysts hold Special Constable Status in order to review and create these reports.)
What is Child Pornography? Child pornography is a permanent record of the sexual abuse of a child. It can be an image, an audio recording, a video, a drawing, or a story about the sexual assault of a child. It is created deliberately and can be shared easily through the Internet, online platforms, and portable technology devices. Child sexual abuse is a crime and a significant problem that the public can't ignore.
The Report - Child Sexual Abuse Images: An Analysis of Websites by Cybertip.ca: This study examines reports made by the public to Cybertip.ca between September 26, 2002 and March 31, 2009. It focuses on child sexual abuse images on websites and provides an overview of the problem of child pornography. Of the 35,111 website incidents (one public report may contain information about an email and a website- this would be considered two separate incidents, as they would have to be analyzed independently) processed by Cybertip.ca during this time, 15,662 involved sites hosting child pornography, thus the number of incidents analyzed in this report.
Findings about child abuse images: The results of this analysis provide some disturbing data on the issue of child pornography. Most concerning is the severity of abuse depicted, with 35% of all images that were analyzed depicting serious sexual assaults against a child. Also troubling are the ages of the children depicted in the images with children under 8 years old most likely to be abused through sexual assaults in the images. Even more alarming is the extreme sexual assaults (bondage, torture and bestiality) which occur against children under 8 years old. These statistics challenge the misconception that child pornography consists largely of innocent or harmless nude photographs of children.
Of the webpages analyzed, 78% had at least one abuse image of a child less than 8 years of age with many showing infants or toddlers being assaulted. Most often, images of children under 8 years of age depicted them being abused through sexual assaults. The images of older children typically depicted them posed nude or in a sexualized way.
Gender also played a role in the research with 83 per cent of the images depicting girls. This highlights the need for gender-related educational materials and working with organizations that work specifically with girls such as the Girl Guides. This may help in the effort to educate girls to recognize sexual abuse and report sexually abusive behaviour.
The marketing aspect of websites hosting child abuse images: The report revealed that there is a marketing component to many websites hosting child sex abuse images with the layout of websites designed to direct attention to the images and focusing on a variety of children. It was found that over 50 per cent of websites were accepting at least one form of credit card payment, and using language seen on adult pornography websites in an attempt to normalize the viewing of such images.
The study also provides information on the global movement of child sexual abuse websites, identifies the challenges with the borderless nature of the Internet, and recommends additional solutions for tackling this problem. The reality is that illegal content is widely and publicly available and moves in an effort to avoid being shut down. In a 48 hour period, Cybertip.ca observed one website cycle through 212 IP addresses, located in 16 different countries.
RECOMMENDATIONS: The report presents a series of 12 recommendations in the areas of education and public awareness, technical and policy development, and research opportunities.