Please enable javascript to access the full functionality of this site

Laptop banner 2022

It’s dark, sinister and no one wants to talk about it - but we must tackle child sexual exploitation

By John Coyne

In 2015, the British government prioritised child sexual exploitation as a national threat, like serious and organised crime. In Australia, our previous two Home Affairs ministers often used child sexual exploitation to justify introducing new legislation to increase police powers.

This crime’s dark, sinister nature meant that there was precious little public discussion on the problem. Today a lack of discourse and priority is putting children at risk. Now that Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s Labor government has settled, it needs to make child sexual exploitation a national priority.

It’s easy to think these offenders are producing child sex exploitation material in some far-off land. Or if it is made in Australia, it is done by some strange dark figure in a raincoat. While Australians probably prefer` this conception of the offenders, it’s simply not true.

Most of Australia’s sexually exploited children are victims of people close to them: relatives, family friends, or community members in positions of trust. If these offenders record their vicious and predatory assaults, they often do so for later personal use or for sharing among small discrete groups.

Most Australians want to believe that these horrendous predatory actions are rare. We recoil in disgust when exposed to the sanitised stories in mainstream media. Unfortunately, the statistics tell a very different story.

It is conservatively estimated that 1 per cent of the global male have a sexual attraction to prepubescent children. Many of these paedophiles will act on these urges through viewing child sexual exploitation material, contact offending, or creating their own content while offending.

More than 3 million accounts are registered across the 10 most harmful child sexual abuse sites on the dark web. In this dark and sinister landscape, there is a demand for increasingly violent prepubescent content.

Then there are those who view child sexual abuse video and claim it is out of an act of curiosity rather than a predilection. Well, every single time an image is accessed that “act of curiosity” results in the re-traumatisation of victims. In some cases, the victims of child sexual exploitation are re-victimised for decades after the original offence as content is shared and reshared. In many cases, victims have been forced to seek out the images and videos of their abhorrent child sexual abuse online and beg technology companies to have it removed.

These comments barely touch the surface of the scale and scope of Australia’s child sexual exploitation problem. Like me, I am certain you are outraged so what are we to do? As Australians, we must open our eyes and address the ugly fact that we face an endemic child sexual exploitation problem. We must be willing to discuss it.

The Albanese government must pick up the baton from the Morrison government. It must follow Britain’s lead and make dealing with child sexual exploitation a national priority on the same level as terrorism and organised crime. Giving this crime the priority it deserves ensures legislators, policymakers and police have the resources and focus they require to make a real difference.

Finally, technology companies must improve their efforts to proactively remove child sexual exploitation material from every corner of the web, whether in social media or the recesses of the dark web.

In the meantime, the message for paedophiles in Australia should be clear. Whether you are a contact offender or seeking out and watching child sexual exploitation material, our police are coming for you, wherever you live. Sooner or later, there will be a knock on your door, and your victims will receive the justice they deserve.

Originally published by: Sydney Morning Herald on 29 Jun 2022