Online sexual abuse of children is a modern scourge in both the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as many other nations. The UK Home Office and the US Department of Justice will continue to attack Internet child exploitation whenever we encounter it. Unfortunately, we are encountering it with great frequency. Our respective nations, therefore, have devoted significant law enforcement resources to combating the issue.
For example, the Department of Justice assigns prosecutors in each of its 93 US attorneys' offices to specialize in prosecuting child exploitation offenses. They are assisted by the 61 Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces that the Department funds throughout the United States. In addition, the Department has a specialized unit in Washington — the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section — that helps train prosecutors and investigators on the best ways to address these crimes. And the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Homeland Security Investigations, and the US Postal Inspection Service are just a few of the US law enforcement agencies working to stop child exploitation.
CAID's use has enabled the NCA to review a seizure of material that would have taken a minimum of six months to review, in six weeks. The UK has brought together the technical expertise of the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) with the National Crime Agency in a joint operational team, to target the most sophisticated offenders, and invested £20 million (US$26.38 million) in the last four years into specialist undercover online activity, targeting offenders who attempt to groom children in chat rooms, and on platforms and fora In the UK, results include identifying 524 victims in indecent imagery of children in 2016, and UK law enforcement is safeguarding around 500 children a month from sexual abuse and harm.
To effectively pursue criminals and protect our children, we need a coordinated global response from governments, industry and society.
This includes working together to formulate innovative new solutions to disrupt criminal networks and autonomous criminals who operate internationally. Governments have territorial limitations and finite resources. They cannot be everywhere, and certainly not in the ether of the Internet. It is essential, therefore, that the technology industry work with governments to safeguard the platforms, products and applications that can be used to harm children.
Thankfully our two nations have a lengthy history of uniting to protect society from international threats, including criminal threats. Our countries repeatedly have cooperated to address emerging threats to international security and safety, and our way of life.
Technology is a key weapon in our arsenal against these horrendous crimes. We are encouraged by the development of Project Arachnid, a groundbreaking technological approach developed by the Canadian Centre for Child Protection. It uses hash lists, the "digital fingerprints" of known child exploitation images, to proactively detect child sexual abuse material online, and issue notices to content hosts so that they remove these items.
Unfortunately the pain and suffering caused by the sexual abuse of children continues when images of the abuse are shared on the Internet. Survivors report feelings of re-victimization when an image is viewed. This is another reason why we must work with Internet technology companies to erase such images from the Internet.
Consider the real case of a child who was sexually abused for 10 years, starting when she was 6 years old. The person who abused the child has been convicted and imprisoned, but now the victim must live with the knowledge that others are viewing images of her abuse with glee. The victim has received some solace from the knowledge that Arachnid found images of her. These images then were removed from the Internet, and Arachnid will continue to search for the images.
The Canadian Centre is now working with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to develop Arachnid into a global tool that will help technology firms of all sizes ensure that their platforms are not being misused by criminals, and that victims are identified, protected and spared further suffering.
As US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has stated: "All of our citizens deserve to live free from the threat of harm — especially our young people. So our efforts to improve public safety will make the fight against child exploitation and human trafficking a top priority."
Our agencies will continue to fight the proliferation of sexually explicit imagery of children and the harm that it causes. But our efforts alone will be insufficient to eradicate these images internationally. And as long as such images exist along with the Internet, they can be sent anywhere in the world. That is why international cooperation is essential.
This delightful story does not directly involve child sex abuse, but the attitude of child-friendly police is absolutely vital to the problem. Cudos to the Dubai police.
American citizens registered as child molesters will have their passports revoked and new ones issued with a special note designating them sex offenders, according to the State Department.
Those convicted of sex offenses against minors will be notified to apply for new IDs after the State Department receives their names from the Department of Homeland Security, AP reported. The DHS is responsible for registering sex offenders.
The identifier’s message “will not prevent covered sex offenders from departing the United States, nor will it affect the validity of their passports,” the State Department said.However, persons whose passports will require the special mark will not be able to get the wallet-sized US passport card, since the new notice won’t fit on it.
The new rule is a part of the “International Megan’s Law to Prevent Child Exploitation and Other Sexual Crimes Through Advanced Notification of Traveling Sex Offenders,” adopted last year. The regulation also obliges sex offenders to report their travel abroad.
Signed into law by former president Barack Obama, the law drew criticism from civil rights activists, who claimed the passport requirement violated constitutional rights of the offenders. In February 2016, California Reform Sex Offender Laws organization filed a complaint with a district court in Northern California, saying the government would “stigmatize a disfavored minority group.”
It may be one of the most difficult tragedies a parent confronts: What to do if their child has been a victim of sexual assault or molestation.
But parents now have a guide written by an Ahwatukee woman who has spent years working with young sex abuse victims as a forensic interviewer for law enforcement agencies as well as a counselor.
The book resulted from her work.
“I found that parents were soaking up all the information and education I would provide to them after interviewing their children,” recalled the Louisiana native, who has lived in Ahwatukee since 1999.
“Having been a therapist and understanding the importance of incorporating parents in the therapeutic process with their child, it became even more evident to me that we still don’t do the best job of teaching and providing practical, hands-on techniques for parents to better communicate and assist their child through the healing process after an abuse disclosure.”
Schopen aimed to make the book a resource on child sexual abuse that would “make it easier for families to discuss abuse, better understand its effects and be able to heal with the necessary resources.”
As a forensic or dedicated interview specialist, she is trained to talk to children in a “developmentally appropriate and sensitive manner” about what a child may have experienced or witnessed regarding a crime, usually sexual assault.
That training includes a knowledge about child development, linguistic abilities and even offender dynamics. There are presently nine dedicated forensic interviewers in Maricopa County alone.
Originally a counselor who worked with families on abuse and trauma issues, she became a forensic interviewer shortly after she began working as a counselor for the Childhelp Children’s Center in 2000. She had been approached because she knew Spanish and became the state’s first bilingual forensic interviewer.
Presently a contract employee with the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office to conduct forensic interviews, Schopen also assists other agencies, including the FBI and tribal communities. She also teaches law enforcement agents, attorneys and others who work with children.
And she provides expert witness testimony across Arizona on topics of delayed disclosure of abuse, the process of victimization, the general characteristics of abuse and why victims may initially disclose and then attempt to recant, or take back, their disclosures.
Is it emotionally taxing to work with young victims of abuse?
“When I tell people what I do for a living, I usually get a response of empathetic sadness along with a comment about how tough it must be to do this work,” she replied. “However, it is actually one of the most rewarding jobs I’ve ever had.
“Each day I get to provide an environment where children can feel safe and not judged talking about their experiences. I often equate my job to one of a hospice worker, in that we both deal with emotionally laden, sometimes traumatic, events that can be filled with sadness, fear, grief or loss, but our goal is to make that process easier, not just to talk about, but to also move forward.”
Surprisingly, her book fills a vacuum in the lexicon of books related to abuse.
“There have been books along the way that talked about child abuse, and some discuss what to say to your child, but to my knowledge, no books have concisely covered the ‘why’ behind children’s disclosures, practical suggestions on how to handle these disclosures and how to find the necessary resources when dealing with child abuse,” Schopen said.
“Seeing firsthand the stress and confusion these cases can bring to families, I felt it was necessary to have a resource with readily available information contained in brief, easily readable chapters,” she added.
And while the book is available through her website, chrisschopen.com, and amazon.com, she’s had trouble getting it into public libraries. The website also “talks to parents about how to handle an initial response to an abuse disclosure (who to contact and what to do)” as well as a link to other resources.
So far, only the Chandler and Glendale Public libraries carry the book.
She said she went to every library located near a police station, offering free copies of the book so they would be available for indigent families and other shattered parents.
“I will say the process of getting a book into the library is a much harder process than I ever imagined – which I guess in some respects, like quality control, is a good thing,” said Schopen.
For every book she sells, she donates $1 to Childhelp Children’s Center of Arizona’s counseling program and $1 to Prevent Child Abuse Arizona “in hopes of supporting each of these agencies’ efforts in supporting families dealing with abuse, as well as helping communities to prevent abuse.”
Asked why parents would find her book useful, Schopen pointed to the introduction, in which she writes that she wants them “to have a greater sense of what happened, what it means for you and your family, and provide you with a hopefulness and renewed sense of power to heal and move forward after abuse has been disclosed by your child.”
“I wrote this book to be concise, yet thorough, in its answers so that a parent or caregiver has immediate answers to some of the more common questions encountered when a child discloses abuse.”
SINGAPORE — In her crusade against child abuse, Singaporean activist Eirliani Abdul Rahman, 40, has pushed the limits of her physical abilities.
Last month, she joined Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Indian child rights’ activist Kailash Satyarthi in the last leg of his march through 22 states in India to raise awareness of child sexual abuse.
She is unfazed by the physical challenges, but the same cannot be said of her reaction to horrific accounts of child sexual abuse she gathered for her new book, Survivors: Breaking The Silence On Child Sexual Abuse.
On one occasion, she had difficulty transcribing her notes on the multiple abuses a survivor went through.
The book, co-authored by child psychiatrist and chairman of the Institute of Mental Health’s medical board Daniel Fung, will be launched here next Wednesday (Nov 15). It will be available for S$18.68 (before GST) at Kinokuniya and Times bookstores from November 29.
The book chronicles the experiences of 12 individuals, including a Singaporean, who were sexually abused as children. The others are from countries such as Myanmar, India, Germany, Canada, South Africa and the United States. Some were raped or sexually abused by their own kin, including their fathers, grandmothers and, for one of them, by his mother.
Ms Eirliani had made a call in Dec 2014 to friends, who then spread the word that she was looking to interview survivors of child sexual abuse. When gathering the accounts, Ms Eirliani was deeply moved by their courage in sharing the dark periods in their lives in order to reach out to others.
Currently based in Colorado in the United States, she told TODAY in a phone interview: “I was struck by how strong they were. Their strength comes through in different ways and they all dealt with their trauma in different ways. Their sharing will help other survivors and their families on their recovery journey.”
A former political counsellor, Ms Eirliani gave up her 10-year career with the Singapore Foreign Service in 2015 to fulfil her childhood dream of ending violence against children.
Voice for the Voiceless
A documentary she watched at age 16 on dowry burning - where brides are burned to death for not bringing in adequate dowry payments - left a profound impact, and she vowed she would be “a voice for the voiceless”.
She decided to focus on child sexual abuse as such cases, particularly where incest is involved, are under-reported.
“It’s such a taboo issue that no one talks about it. We need to break the silence so that we can prevent it. If we don’t talk about it, then how on earth do we create an environment that is safe for children? Once a child has been abused, there’s no going back,” she said.
In 2015, she led a campaign on behalf of Mr Satyarthi - called #FullStop to #childsexualabuse – which reached 16 million people over six weeks. She subsequently won the 2015 BMW Foundation Responsible Leaders Award for her work on child sexual abuse in India.
With Dr Fung, she also started a Singapore-based non-profit called YAKIN (Youths, Adult survivors and Kin In Need) to support and protect victims of child abuse. There are plans to introduce rock climbing programmes for abused children here as a form of therapy, she said.
Since embarking on her mission, which has been mostly based in India, Ms Eirliani has come face-to-face with some of the most horrific crimes against children, including child labour and child sex trafficking.
“We saw a teenage girl who was bought as a child bride, and then raped by a much older man. She managed to escape eventually,” she said.
Not all of them escape their abusers. “Some street children are raped and killed. A lot of these cases are opportunistic.”
Ms Eirliani, who has written articles on child online safety, said parents and caregivers need to be aware that child sexual abuse is evolving as societies become more tech-savvy.
“Many parents post photos of their kids online and don’t realise that there are various groups that collect these images. For example, if the photo shows the child holding or sucking something, they’ll digitally-manipulate the photo and sell it online,” she said.
Ms Eirliani, who dreams of a day where every child will be free from abuse and violence, said her work is far from over. “Every child has a right to have a safe childhood,” she said.