Preventing the creation of child sexual offenders
In February, Women’s Weekly in Australia published an in-depth, interesting and horrifying article on child sexual abuse, telling the story of some of the most disturbing cases of child sexual abuse that the world has seen.
One of them was the case that those of you who came to our Stockholm event in September 2015, #skillnadpåriktigt, would have heard Detective Inspector Jon Rouse, of Queensland Police’s Task Force Argos talk about. Another one is based on the source of some of the most horrific child sexual abuse material imaginable. If you visited the FTS Säkra Varje Unge’sseminar in Gothenburg on 24th February you would have heard about the case from Björn Sellström from the Swedish Police, National Operative Department (NOA).
One of the interesting interviews in the article is with Dr Katie Seidler, a clinical and forensic psychologist:
Most disturbingly, Dr Seidler describes how simply viewing child sex abuse as erotica may create new pathways in the brain of a person who has no history of an attraction to children, creating a destructive new feedback loop.
“Some people are heavy users of online porn and can become sanitised to what they are seeing,” she says. “Ten per cent of their [viewing] might be child sex abuse … but if you watch that material and reinforce it with masturbation, you will condition yourself to be aroused to children. So you can become conditioned.”
This view is not an absolute truth, and needs to be understood in its correct context. A person does not become a paedophile simply by watching child sexual abuse material. For example, the law enforcement officers who work with this type of material every day certainly do not find it appealing.
What we do know for a fact is that there are people who watch a lot of porn. Over time, they become desensitised by the milder material and gradually turn to more extreme pornography. Eventually, some of them will turn to child sexual abuse material to satisfy their needs. And here is where the link between watching child sexual abuse material, reinforcing the sexual connection and actually becoming sexually interested in children becomes logical, and real.
This pinpoints one of the reasons why it is so important to restrict access to child sexual abuse material. We often talk about detecting and tracing the images and videos, to find the people who watch this type of content, to stop them, and hopefully help them.
It is important to detect and trace child sexual abuse material because there is a strong link between people consuming child sexual abuse material and actually abusing children themselves. According to NCMEC, at least 30 per cent of people who watch child sexual abuse material go on to commit hands‐on abuse. Other figures even suggest around 50 per cent. And 80 per cent of the offenders abuse children that they have a close relationship with. There is a high probability that if we can find the people who watch child sexual abuse material, we will also rescue children from ongoing or future abuse.
But sometimes, when tracing material is not practical or constructive, such as on an open or guest Wi-Fi network, there is a very strong argument for the Internet service provider or country level authorities to block access to child sexual abuse material as a preventative measure.
We know that open networks are frequently used to access child sexual abuse material. In Sweden, there was a recent court case where a man used a hotel’s open Wi-Fi, not even as a guest but by logging on in the car park outside, to download illegal material. More concerning is the fact that there was strong evidence to show that this was something that he had done on many occasions.
By blocking content, not only do we spare the children in those images and videos from having their worst moments spread far and wide across the globe, but, following Dr Seidler’s argument, blocking these types of material will also prevent people from watching it, which in turn prevent the creation of more offenders.