The Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime

June 02, 2009 12:00 ET

Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime Recommends Changes to Address Internet-Facilitated Child Sexual Abuse

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - June 2, 2009) - The Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime (FOVC) today released its first special report Every Image, Every Child which makes nine recommendations to the federal government on how to address the difficult issue of internet-facilitated child sexual abuse.

According to the report, internet-facilitated child sexual abuse is growing at an alarming rate. Between 1998 and 2003, the number of charges for production or distribution of child pornography increased by 900 percent and between 2003 and 2007 the number of images of serious child abuse quadrupled. In addition to increased volume, the images are getting more violent and feature younger children. Statistics show that 83 percent of children are 12 years old or younger and over 80 percent of the images involve penetration.

Through Every Image, Every Child FOVC urges the federal government to amend laws and policies to make investigations faster and more effective by:

- introducing legislation to make it mandatory for Internet service providers to give law enforcement basic customer name and address information upon request;

- requiring internet service providers to keep data and internet surfing records for longer periods to ensure that evidence is not destroyed; and

- making it a criminal offence to refuse to give law enforcement a password or encryption information during an investigation.

"Giving law enforcement the tools they need to quickly and effectively investigate these cases is the first and most basic step in addressing this issue," said Steve Sullivan, the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime. "Each case represents more than a chance to catch an offender; it represents a chance to help a child who is suffering horrific abuse."

Every Image, Every Child also encourages the federal government to support stronger efforts to find and help the child victims in the photos. This includes recommendations to:

- increase the capacity of the RCMP's National Child Exploitation Coordination Centre to identify and rescue the child victims in the images;

- support research into the impact of internet-facilitated child sexual abuse on children; and

- more effectively help victimized children through special child-friendly multi-disciplinary child advocacy centres.

"These children suffer a unique horror," explains Sullivan "in addition to the actual abuse, they have to cope with the constant fear and humiliation of knowing that their image is being traded around the world and could surface anytime. That's why support for victims is so important. Child Advocacy Centres are one solution that benefits the children and the community. Not only do these centres provide coordinated child-friendly services, they are less expensive and result in more charges and guilty pleas as well as higher conviction rates."

Finally, Every Image, Every Child recommends the federal government consider the trauma these children face knowing their image is being shared and introduce new measures to reduce distribution. Specifically, the report recommends imposing strict rules on how evidence is shared with defence counsel and requiring internet service providers to block access to sites that contain child sexual abuse material.

The complete report, along with a backgrounder summarizing the recommendations and a statistical summary, is available on the Office's website at: www.victimsfirst.gc.ca or by calling the Office toll-free at: 1-866-481-8429.

Created in 2007, the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime helps victims to address their needs, promotes their interests and makes recommendations to the federal government on issues that negatively impact victims.


BACKGROUNDER

Every Image, Every Child

Recommendations to the Government of Canada

Internet-facilitated child sexual abuse is a horrific and growing problem. The victims are getting younger, and the abuses more violent.

In its first special report, Every Image, Every Child, the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime analyzes the issue of Internet-facilitated child sexual abuse and makes nine recommendations to the federal government on how to address it. The following is a brief summary of those recommendations.

Awareness and understanding

Language shapes how we see and understand an issue. For that reason, the term we use to describe the problem of Internet-facilitated child sexual abuse should be accurate and descriptive.

Currently, the term most commonly used for any sexual image involving a child is "child pornography." This term is not just used in conversation; it is also used in law. Every Image, Every Child argues that this term is both inaccurate and dangerous in what it unconsciously conveys: a consensual sexual interaction. To address the issue properly, we must be honest and direct about its horrors.

Recommendation 1: Amend the child pornography provisions in the Criminal Code to provide a more accurate description of the crime and harm done (i.e. such as child sexual abuse images, child sexual abuse videos, child sexual abuse writings).

Investigation and rescue

Technology is important in helping police investigate cases where known child sexual abuse images are being shared or downloaded. One of the techniques police use is to identify the Internet Protocol or "IP" address linked to a computer with known child abuse material. Law enforcement can then take that number and ask the Internet Service Provider (ISP) to identify the name and address of the customer associated with it. It is very much like police looking up the licence plate of a car-it does not necessarily identify the driver, but it identifies the car and the address it is registered to, which helps police to begin their investigation.

Currently in Canada, ISPs are allowed-but not obligated-to provide police who do not have a warrant with customer name and address information. That means they can, and do, refuse to cooperate with law enforcement. While many ISPs do cooperate, 30 to 40 percent of requests are still being denied. In fact, law enforcement has identified their inability to get basic customer name and address information as the biggest challenge they face in investigating cases. Without this information, they may be forced to drop the case.

Many people fear that allowing police to get a customer's name and address without a warrant means they will have access to a wide variety of personal information, including Internet surfing records or medical records. This is false. Customer name and address information is just that-a name and an address. For any other search, police are required by law to get a warrant.

Every Image, Every Child argues that we need to give police the tools they need to catch offenders and rescue abused children.

Recommendations 2 to 4:

- Require ISPs to provide customer name and address information to law enforcement.

- Introduce legislation to require ISPs to retain customer name and address data, traffic data and content data for two to five years.

- Introduce legislation to amend the Criminal Code to make the refusal to provide a password or encryption code upon judicial order a criminal offence.

Police are using technology not only to catch offenders, but just as importantly to identify the children who are in the photos and rescue them from further abuse. This is done through "image analysis" where police scour the photos for clues of where the children might be, such as a baseball cap from a local sports team or a hotel logo on a sheet or bed frame-any clue that might help police narrow down their search and help an innocent child. This kind of analysis is one of the best and only ways to help these children, but it takes time and resources. Every Image, Every Child urges the government to consider more support for this very important work.

Recommendation 5: Develop a national strategy to identify victims found in child sexual abuse images, which includes an expansion of the RCMP's National Child Exploitation Coordination Centre's National Victim Identification Unit and support for the national image database.

Victim support and assistance

Victims of Internet-facilitated child sexual abuse suffer a unique horror. Not only are they abused, but the evidence of their abuse is shared over and over again around the world, and can never be totally erased. Victims must live knowing that these images are still being used by collectors, and that they could surface at any time.

Unfortunately, very little research has been done to understand exactly how this unique abuse impacts victims, and what can be done to help them heal. One item that may provide much needed support is the Child Advocacy Centre-a child- and family-friendly resource.

Child Advocacy Centres follow a model, developed in the United States, which make children the priority. They bring together a variety of professionals and resources in one location, so victims are not forced to share their painful stories over and over again with law enforcement, lawyers, psychologists and others in a number of formal and intimidating settings. Research shows these centres, which are used to help all types of child victims, can reduce the cost of an investigation by up to 45 percent, and that they result in an increase in charges laid, better quality of evidence, more guilty pleas and higher conviction rates with more appropriate sentences. Families are also generally more willing to access services if they are on-site.

Every Image, Every Child encourages the federal government to learn more about how to help victims and to consider how to offer the valuable services of Child Advocacy Centres to victims across the country.

Recommendations 6 and 7:

- Develop a national strategy to expand the network of Child Advocacy Centre models in communities across the country.

- Fund research into the needs of victims of Internet-facilitated child sexual abuse.

Dissemination and distribution

Because we know that each time a child sexual abuse image is viewed the victim is re-traumatized, we have a responsibility to handle those images with care. That means strictly limiting the copying and sharing of those images, even when it comes to their use as evidence in the courts.

A fair trial is every Canadian's right, and defence counsel should be able to review the evidence against his or her client. However, the unique nature of this evidence should mean that we take extra care in how we share and distribute these images. Every Image, Every Child argues that we should not leave this up to chance and that a change in legislation is needed.

Recommendation 8: Introduce legislation to amend the Criminal Code to ensure that child sexual abuse images, video or audio recordings are not disclosed to defence counsel but that opportunities are made available for proper review of the evidence.

Through the use of the Internet, child sexual abuse images are being shared and collected in never-before-seen proportions. Although it is not possible to stop the flow completely, we can take definite steps to reduce the number and accessibility of images. One way is to create databases of known images and then to use software programs or filters that can identify and destroy an image when it is detected to be a match for a file in the database.

Recommendation 9: Introduce legislation to require all ISPs to block access to sites containing images of children who are or are depicted as being under the age of 18 years, and block the distribution of known child sexual abuse images based on images collected by the National Child Exploitation Coordination Centre.

Every Image, Every Child provides an overview of the issue, a short history of progress to date and identifies a number of sizable gaps where children are falling through the cracks and offenders are gaining momentum. Each of the recommendations represents an opportunity to act-to make positive change and to protect vulnerable children.

The Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime looks forward to swift and decisive action by the federal government on these recommendations.

For a copy of the full report, or more information about the Office, please visit the website at www.victimsfirst.gc.ca.


BACKGROUNDER

Every Image, Every Child

Fast Facts and Statistics

On June 2, 2009 the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime released its first special report: Every Image, Every Child. The report makes nine recommendations to the federal government on how to address the issue of internet-facilitated child sexual abuse.

Every Image, Every Child brings together a number of studies, publications and articles which support the need to take quick and definitive action to rescue and help innocent child victims. The following facts and information are pulled from the report.

The issue

- More than 90 percent of Canadians are concerned about the distribution of child sexual abuse images, and child sexual exploitation is ranked as one of the top three concerns for parents regarding children.(1)

The scope of the problem

- Commercial child pornography is estimated to be a multi-billion dollar industry worldwide.(2)

- Tens of thousands of new images or videos are put on the Internet every week and hundreds of thousands of searches for child sexual abuse images are performed daily.(3)

- It is estimated that there are over 5 million unique child sexual abuse images on the Internet.(4)

- The children in the images are getting younger:



- 83 percent of children are 12 years old or younger.(5)
- 39 percent had images of children between the ages of 3 and 5.(6)
- 19 percent had images of infants under 3 years old.(7)

- The content of the images and videos is becoming increasingly violent:

- Over 80 percent of the images involve penetration.(8)
- 20 percent of the images involve torture or bondage.(9)
- The number of images of "serious child abuse" has quadrupled between
2003 and 2007.(10)
- 87 percent had images of prepubescent children that were highly
graphic.(11)

Offenders

- The number of charges for production or distribution of child pornography
increased by 900 percent between 1998 and 2003.(12)

- Most child sexual abuse image producers are known to the victims:

- 37 percent are family members.(13)
- 36 percent are acquaintances.(14)


- Over 30 percent of those convicted of possessing child pornography were living with minor children; almost 50 percent had access to minors at home, socially or as part of their jobs.(15)

- Currently, an estimated 500,000 individuals are actively involved in the trafficking of child sexual abuse images on the Internet.(16)

Investigations

- One of the best tools for locating offenders is by identifying Internet Protocol or "IP" addresses that have distributed known child sexual abuse images or videos. Law enforcement can then try to obtain the customer name and address associated with that IP address.

- In Canada, Internet Service Providers (ISP) are permitted, but not required, to provide this information to law enforcement without judicial authorization (i.e.: a warrant).

- While many ISPs do cooperate, 30 to 40 percent of requests for basic customer name and address information are still denied.(17)

Helping child victims heal

- A victimized child and his or her family can go to more than 10 different locations and see multiple professionals before getting help.(18)

- Child Advocacy Centres (CAC) help child victims by bringing together a number of professionals, such as police, lawyers, counsellors and investigators, in one child-friendly location.

- An investigation into a child abuse case in a community with a CAC is 45 percent less expensive than in a community without a CAC.(19)

- Use of the CAC model leads to a reduction in system-induced trauma for victims, an increase in charges laid, better quality of evidence, more guilty pleas and higher convictions rates with more appropriate sentences.(20) Additionally, families are generally more willing to access services if they are on-site.

Reducing the flow of child sexual abuse images

- Canada's private and non-profit sectors are working to help reduce or block access to illegal child abuse sites.

- On average, www.Cybertip.ca - Canada's child sexual abuse website reporting organization - receives over 700 reports and 250,000 website page views per month.

- Since 2006, there have been 13,000 URLs(21) added to www.Cybertip.ca's list. Almost half of these sites involve sexual acts with children and almost 90 percent involve children under 8.(22)

What you can do

- If you have wireless Internet access at home, ensure that it is password protected so that others nearby cannot access it. Some offenders have been known to drive around looking for wireless access so that they cannot be traced.

- Report any websites you find with child sexual abuse content to www.Cybertip.ca

- Be mindful of the images you post to the Internet. Images that may seem to be innocent to you could be used by others for inappropriate purposes. Once they are out there, an image can never be taken back.

- Read up on what you can do to protect your children. There are numerous websites and other resources that can help you learn more about what you can do at home.

(1) Canadian Centre for Child Protection, "What we know." www.protectchildren.ca/app/en/whatwek, March 25, 2008.

(2) Jonah Rimer, Literature Review-Responding to Child & Youth Victims of Sexual Exploitation on the Internet, 2007. The creation and distribution of most images is not related to commercial purposes. www.boostforkids.org/pdf/RCE-Literature-Review.pdf, p. 30.

(3) Dr. Roberta Sinclair, The National Child Exploitation Coordination Centre, "Internet Facilitated Sexual Exploitation," PowerPoint presentation made to the 2007 National Crime Victim Awareness Week Symposium, April 23, 2007.

(4) Dr. Michael Bourke, "Child Pornography and Hands-on Abuse," Dallas Crimes Against Children Conference, August 12, 2008.

(5) H.R. 4120, An Act to amend title 18, United States Code, to provide for more effective prosecution of cases involving child pornography, and for other purposes.

(6) National Juvenile Online Victimization Study (NJOV) 2004.

(7) Ibid.

(8) Janis Wolak et al. "Internet Sex Crimes Against Minors: The Response of Law Enforcement," November 2003. /www.missingkids.com/en_US/publications/NC132.pdf.

(9) CTV.ca, July 23, 2006.

(10) According to Internet Watch Foundation; Jonah Rimer, Literature Review-Responding to Child & Youth Victims of Sexual Exploitation on the Internet, 2007, p. 16.

(11) Juvenile Online Victimization Incidence Study (JOVIS) 2004.

(12) Only 33 percent of those convicted of distribution were sentenced to prison (52 percent received probation). Child and Youth as Victims of Crime, Juristat, 1, April 20, 2005, p. 11. Statistics Canada Catalogue No. 85-002-XIE.

(13) Jonah Rimer, Literature Review-Responding to Child & Youth Victims of Sexual Exploitation on the Internet, 2007, p. 25.

(14) Ibid.

(15) Adrian Humphreys, "Predators among us-do we have an epidemic or not?," National Post, October 20, 2007. These statistics refer to a study done by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children regarding 1,713 people charged with possessing child pornography.

(16) "President Bush signs child protection bill into law," October 14, 2008. /cbs4.com/seenon/internet.sex.predator.2.840236.html.

(17) NCECC Submission to Public Safety Canada, "Customer Name and Address Information Consultation," October 2007.

(18) BOOST Child Abuse Prevention & Intervention.

(19) National Children Alliance Annual Report 2005. www.nca-online.org/uploads/NCA%20AR2005.pdf.

(20) ZEBRA Child Protection Centre, Victims of Crime Fund Grants Program Evaluation Report, March 1, 2007, p. 9.

(21) A URL (Uniform Resource Locator) is the unique address for a file that is accessible on the Internet. For example, to get to a website, you can enter the URL of the home page in your Web browser's address line.

(22) Signy Arnason, www.Cybertip.ca, Ontario Provincial Strategy to Protect Children from Sexual Abuse and Exploitation on the Internet Multi-disciplinary Conference, November 18, 2008, London, Ontario.

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