Warren Binford, an American professor doing research at the U of Calgary, is probing how the circulation online of images and videos of children being sexually abused can traumatize the victims years after they've been rescued.
Between the ages of five and nine years old, Amy endured repeated sexual abuse at the hands of an uncle.
|Wendi Warren Binford, Willamette University’s College of Law in Oregon|
Police investigators and advocates who work with victims of child sexual exploitation contend the continued existence of images and videos on the Internet causes ongoing psychological trauma for victims long after the abuse has ended. Now, a visiting professor at the University of Calgary is looking for a way to prove that connection through brain research, with the aim of finding better methods of protecting child victims.
“One of the ways we can do that is by giving people a scientific understanding of how harmful this is,” said Warren Binford, a professor at Willamette University’s College of Law in Oregon.
“We can help people understand this is real, this is not about the victims ‘not getting over it.’ This is having a biological impact on their well-being.”
Many child abuse survivors never get completely 'over it'. Having photos or videos of their sexual abuse forever on the internet just adds another whole level of ongoing trauma.
Binford is at the University of Calgary through the fall as part of the Fulbright academic exchange program, a non-profit organization that funds Canadian and American researchers in a variety of fields. Binford is one of three American academics brought to Alberta as visiting chairs in child and family health and wellness through a partnership between Fulbright and the Calgary-based Palix Foundation.
Binford cited Alberta’s universities as leaders in brain research, but another distinction — a darker one — also lured her to Canada.
“Canada, like the U.S., is one of the leading senders and receivers of child sexual abuse images,” she said.
“You’ve got a problem with child pornography, but you also have the resources to move forward.”
The Internet allows pedophiles to trade and circulate images and videos of children being sexually abused with a high degree of anonymity. It’s not uncommon for police around the world to turn up images of child victims years after the abuse took place. In Amy’s case, it’s estimated 70,000 images of her have been recovered by police around the world.
“We keep encountering the same series of photos. We know they’re still out there and they’re never going away,” said Staff Sgt. John Guigon of Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams, a provincial organization that investigates serious and organized crime.
While the law has begun to recognize the trauma inflicted by adults who sexually abuse children, Binford said society has been slower to recognize that people who trade and circulate child pornography are also committing a serious crime — even if they haven’t physically abused a child themselves.
“We have a public that doesn’t appreciate the impact (spreading child pornography) has had on victims,” she said.
Amen! Thanks for speaking out about it. You're my hero today, God bless you.