Viewing images of child sexual abuse is child sexual abuse.
We were horrified by the comments of Simon Bailey, Chief Constable of Norfolk police & the Association of Chief Police Officers' lead on child protection and abuse investigations in the Guardian this morning suggesting that men who look at images of children being sexually abused, raped and tortured were "not all were an immediate threat".
Men who view these images/videos, and it is almost exclusively men, are participating in child sexual abuse. Viewing images of children being sexually abused is a criminal offence BECAUSE it is actively harming children. Every single time someone looks at these images they are harming the child. Ten minutes googling survivors of child sexual abuse statements would make it clear that part of their trauma is knowing that these images are still available online and that men are being sexually aroused by their abuse. Suggesting that men who view these images are "not an immediate threat" is both callous and wrong. These are not "low risk' offenders. They are committing child sexual abuse, rape and torture
Bailey goes on to say:
“What academic research would say is between 16% and 50% of those people who have viewed indecent images of children are then likely to be ‘contact abusers’ [of children]. That can be as high as 25,000 or as low as 8,000. [This group] poses a threat,” he said. However, the remaining group of child sex offenders – who are committing a crime by viewing the material online – are “non-contact abusers” who Bailey says do not “need to come into the criminal justice system in terms of being put forward before a court”.
He added: “We have to think about an alternative solution. [We] need to engage with service providers from mental health and the health service to work with us to say these people need help.”
Conflating men who have a clinical diagnosis of paedophilia with men who commit child sexual abuse and exploitation is a way of minimising men, and it is almost always men, responsibility for actively harming children: whether this be through "contact abuse" or "non-contact abuse". This is why we use the term child rapist to make it clear that those who choose to commit child sexual abuse, exploitation, rape and torture make a choice to do so - even those who have a clinical diagnosis of paedophilia make a choice to commit the abuse. Having a clinical diagnosis is not a get-out-of-jail free card. They still make a choice.
Men who look at these images or videos online PAY to do so fueling an industry which is based on the sexual exploitation and torture of children. No one "accidentally stumbles" on images of child sexual abuse, rape and torture. They have to search for these images and, then, they pay for them. This is without getting into the issue of "pay-per-view" child sexual abuse where men pay to watch another man torture a child live.
Images of children being sexually abused, tortured and raped are a growth industry because men PAY to see these images and videos. They look at the images knowing the children are being abused. They look at them because they don't care. They believe they are entitled to watch these images of children being tortured - some as young as a day old.
These men need to be held criminally liable for participating in the sexual exploitation, rape and torture of children.
It's incredibly frighting that the ACPO lead on child protection and abuse investigations doesn't get this - that he confuses paedophilia, a psychological condition which very few have, with the vast majority of perpetrators who CHOOSE to sexually abuse children. And, that Bailey doesn't understand that those who are clinically diagnosed as paedophiles are still making a choice.
We suggest that ACPO sign up Bailey and all of their members for some proper training on child sexual exploitation from an organisation who understand that viewing images of children being sexually abused, raped and tortured is a crime. That these men are financially supporting an industry which is based entirely on the rape, sexual abuse and torture of children.
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Simon Bailey’s comments defy belief, given his position but some of what he says is accurate. He is right to say that of the men downloading and distributing indecent images, not all are a threat. Some will be low risk, as he states, but many wont. However – and it is a very big however – you cannot tell which ones will present a low risk to children simply by the images they have downloaded.
I am more than a little concerned that Simon Bailey talks about “academic research” to support his view but doesn’t mention which academic research. I have a sneaking suspicion that one such piece of research is the one that has led to the KIRAT risk assessment tool used by Police teams – developed by the University of Liverpool in conjunction with Kent Police. It is hugely flawed, has dubious academic credentials despite being widely used amongst police forces to prioritise their workloads. other risk assessment methods including polygraph testing are demonstrating on a regular basis that KIRAT is flawed.
What we know about offenders who use indecent images of children is that they are very rarely and end in and of themselves. In actual fact, offenders use the images to perpetuate fantasy and that fantasy is, unsurprisingly, related to the sexual abuse of children. At the very least, we know that people who access indecent images of children have a sexual interest in children and as such, should be considered to pose a risk of harm to children. That has to be common sense. What cannot and should not happen is that assumptions are made about risk to children based upon the kind of images downloaded from the internet. If the last few weeks have shown us anything it will have shown us this.
Myles Bradbury was flagged to law enforcement in the UK because he purchased a video from a Canadian website which was indicative of someone having asexual interest in children. It wasn’t an illegal video in the UK. It does not constitute an offence to possess this video but what it does tell is that the person buying it has a sexual interest in children.
We now know that whilst Myles Bradbury was viewing indicative videos on one hand, he was also sexually abusing children using his role as a paediatrician to gain access and the reputational barrier to accusations of impropriety, should they have arisen. they didnt for a long time, but when they did, they really did. This case should stand as testimony for the fact that it is dangerous to assume that because the nature or the quantity of images accessed is low, it is catastrophic to assume that this has any bearing on the level of risk. Whilst Simon Bailey is correct that some present a low risk of contact abuse, we cannot tell which they are until they have been investigated. Crack on Simon.
As for the NHS being the agency that can pick up the failings and the inadequacies of the criminal justice system, this is simply bizarre. Offenders are not ill, they can’t be cured and the NHS neither has the resources nor the capacity to pick up the can for the CJS. There is an argument that there are treatment programmes that can successfully work with some offenders to help them recognise triggers to offending behavior and make different choices, but this is actually best provided through the CJS after prosecution than dumping sex offenders on an over stretched, under resourced ill-prepared health service creaking at the hinges with it’s day job.
We consider the downloading of images to be a threat to children. These men are creating the market for online child sexual abuse, rape and torture by viewing these images. They may not have “contact” abuse with children (and we find this distinction troubling) but they are choosing to help perpetrate child sexual abuse, rape and torture by viewing the images and videos. These images/ videos are not animations. They are crime scenes.
Absolutely. I see that as unarguable. I should have added “of contact abuse” after the word threat.
The creation of indecent images of children is of course abuse and the sharing of those images creates the markets and, as you rightly say, re-abuses the child. I wouldnt want to diminish the impact of the viewing and distrribution of indecent images, however even if you set that aside for a minute, what Bailey is arguing is as flawed as it is unpalatable. The Police need to do their job, not pass the buck on to the NHS.