Erase the images to end the shame

There was public outrage at the sentencing of rapist James Taylor
last year. He was jailed for five years for the rape of a
13-month-old child and distribution of images of the rape over the
internet. But while the headlines and debate concentrated on the
apparent leniency of his sentence, the coverage neglected the fate
of the children involved.

The case shows what is missing from the public debate on child
pornography. Two years ago, it was reported that, of the 750,000
images of child pornography seized in the Wonderland case, only
1,263 different children had been identified. No more than 18 of
these children had been tracked, and just three were said to be
receiving treatment.

Knowing that a record of their sexual abuse exists, children used
in pornography feel helplessness, humiliation and shame. They also
live with the knowledge that the images can be endlessly circulated
on the internet and used to groom other children and entice them
into the same abuse.

Children whose abuse has been recorded find it especially difficult
to come forward. The visual “proof” of their apparent complicity
and enjoyment is used as an extra weapon to enforce their silence.
Disclosure is more likely to be forced on the child by an
investigation than to come from the child.

All these complexities will have significant implications for
treatment. Are children confronted with a photo of their abuse more
likely to benefit from treatment than those who come forward for
help? Their sense of powerlessness and shame can only get

Arguably, one of the most effective treatments for a child is to
see their abusers successfully prosecuted and the removal of any
materials in which they have been forced to feature. We are already
struggling with sophisticated encryption technology to prosecute
those distributing and marketing child pornography but as a nation
we must urge the IT industry to devise ways to destroy the images
of abuse.

Hardly a week goes by without some fresh police operation drawing
attention to images of child abuse on the internet. We urgently
need to provide long-term support and treatment for children abused
in this way and to concentrate our efforts on destroying the
images. Knowing that their public humiliation could be tackled in
this way might go some way to removing the stigma of their abuse
and assist in their recovery.

Susan Creighton is a senior research officer at the

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