As we witness the spread of child exploitation, I have discovered that language counts. And calling it ‘child porn’ is part of the problem.
CW: The following piece discusses sexual violence and the exploitation of children.
I made a personal and professional decision this week which may sound trivial, even puerile, to some people. I decided to stop using the expression ‘child porn’ in my columns, on TV, and in Facebook posts. I’ll concede, I have ignored criticism about my use of the expression for a long time. I resisted because I truly thought that the term ‘child porn’ graphically, and starkly, conveyed how disgusting, cruel and putrid the international child pornography business was. But others, whom I respect, thought it sort of made it somehow acceptable. I now understand and embrace their argument.
Sadly, too many Australian judges and magistrates have not come to my epiphany. I still see reports of men on the bench who have let a high school teacher walk free with a suspended sentence after being caught with hundreds of images and videos of child sexual abuse victims. And I almost puke when a defence lawyer argues that the material was only ‘for my client’s edification’ and not for further sale or passage. Some child was cruelly abused for that video to be made in the first place. Some may even have died. There are always victims.
My current head of steam on this issue (which I have been pursuing for about 30 years, and have been to jail over) is a new SBS documentary called Children in the Pictures. It is gruelling. It is hard to watch but delicately handled. It chronicles the thousands of paedophiles on the ‘dark web’. The thousands, millions, of perverts trading videos of sexually abused children. Some as young as four months old. How international police have toiled for years to find their attackers and charge them. And Australian police have been right at the forefront out of a child exploitation unit in Brisbane.
The police work has been amazing. They have painstakingly perused thousands of hours of revolting videos. For example, police found a distinctive bedspread in a pornographic video involving a very young girl. After hundreds of hours of international searching, it was traced to a motel in Georgia, USA. The man who posted his disgusting behaviour with a young girl was tracked, found and convicted.
In a recent Australian case an aid worker, who had been trading in pornographic videos involving Cambodian children, was identified by an unusual watch and his footwear and jailed in Adelaide.
One of our Justice Party members in the Victorian Upper House is former copper Stuart Grimley. One of his distasteful jobs was to watch child abuse videos. Imagine this tortured scenario for a policeman (or policewoman) with young kids of your own at home. Having to watch such muck – or worse, pretend to be a child molester as part of your job.
To shut down foul, dark websites (and they have relentlessly done that) police officers have to first infiltrate those sites. They have to pretend to be a paedophile. Imagine, when challenged, trying to preserve your cover. Imagine having to text a ‘fellow pervert’ in a chat room and describe the specific sexual things you would like to do to a child. And then you go home that night to your wife and precious kids. Don’t relish that at all.
I believe that child exploitation is the most sinister aspect of the internet. International crims, especially in Russia and Ukraine, are dominating it.
I used to pompously advise that the best thing to do in the world of computers was to keep your kids’ gadgets out of their bedrooms. Keep their screens where you could see them. That’s no longer enough.
I see that recently, Facebook’s billionaire Mark Zuckerberg decided to delay a new Instagram project that would have been aimed at (exploiting?) 13-year-old image-conscious girls. But it is the existing Internet that is the problem. Jeez, if you can quickly ban Donald Trump why can’t you shut down a site that advocates having sex with children?
Sexual grooming of your vulnerable children is one of the greatest threats in this modern electronic world. I used to pompously advise that the best thing to do in the world of computers was to keep your kids’ gadgets out of their bedrooms. Keep their screens where you could see them. That’s no longer enough. You can no longer keep track of apps or mobile phones.
Groomers, stalkers, are very clever. They know how to push buttons. They will ingratiate themselves as a person of the same age until they convince your daughter to take off some clothes and then will threaten to tell her parents unless she does more. It is a classic play from the internet pervert copybook.
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The abuse of children is so international and so pervasive. A recent independent study revealed that more than 300,000 French children had been sexually assaulted by Catholic priests. No surprise here where we had our own damning Royal Commission.
It prompted this Hinch tweet: ‘More than 300,000 children were sexually abused by Catholic priests in France. An independent report says priests should “have training”. You have to be trained not to rape children?’
Sadly, I rest my case.