Child Abuse Material
Most sexual abuse comes from within the home, we are told. But such sexual abuse is common, affecting perhaps as many as one in 10 children: according to the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), there are more than 110,000 convicted child sex offenders living in the UK alone. Most experts say that there is massive under-reporting of child sex offences in the UK and, this under-reporting is even more pronounced in countries which are less open on the problem, such Germany and France.
But even if chat-room grooming is rare, it is clear that online child pornography or "child abuse material" as the police are now calling it, is a very serious problem indeed. First, the consumers are colluding in a serious crime, where the victim's assault is recorded, effectively for ever.
Second, child porn consumers can also be child rapists. Take for example, the case of the 7,000 UK subscribers to a US child pornography site, whose names and addresses were supplied to UK police by the FBI.
Fewer than 1,000 people, from an old - 1999 - list have been questioned and/or charged. According to US research, cited by Donald Findlater, a therapist involved in the rehabilitation of convicted paedophiles, as many as a third of child pornography consumers are, concurrently child sexual abusers. Which means that, conservatively, more than 2,000 children were being sexually abused in 1999 by the 7,000 British subscribers.
Child pornography was very rare until the advent of video in the 1980s, and still very hard to obtain until the advent of the Internet. Now it's comparatively easy to find: The great unanswered question is: will this make child sexual abuse even more common?
Donald Findlater believes it can. Speaking last month at a City University-hosted debate, Paedophiles: Reform or Revenge, he pointed to the proliferation of outlets through the Internet for people with deviant sexual fantasies. We share his concern. Once upon a time, there were no outlets to suggest that fantasies of child sex were anything other than perverted and 'solus'. Now, there are, admittedly underground, support structures, with paedophile networks, and easy-to-access masturbatory material. Which means plenty of to turn fantasy into crime.
If you are a child abuser or a potential abuser it is never too late to stop or to seek help. Here, Stop It Now! UK and Ireland runs a telephone helpline, offering "advice and support to people who suspect abuse and to those seeking help to stop their own abusive thoughts and behaviour". The number is 0800 1000 900. In America, STOP IT NOW! US also provides similar services.
Also if you have any suspicions that a child is being sexually abused, call NSPCC Child Protection Helpline on 0808 800 5000 or Crime Stoppers on 0800 555111.
Finally, if you encounter child pornography online, be sure to report it to the Internet Watch Foundation. ®
Home Office press release
NSPCC: Danielle trial highlights child porn sex attack link
BBC: Child Porn arrests after delay
Child porn 'librarian' jailed for two years
International Net paedophile ring smashed by UK police
Paedophile says why he loves the Net