Celebrating the people that make IWF great – John: I made a concerted effort within our remit to have every image and video I found of her online removed

Published:  Wed 31 Jul 2019

Having worked in images as a press photographer for most of my professional working life, I know how powerful they can be, what they convey and what emotions they can produce, both in a positive and negative way. Obviously, an image of a child laughing and playing in a park, for example, radiates joy and makes everyone who looks at it feel the same. However, an image of a child suffering sexual abuse, crying and the taking of innocence conveys the very opposite feelings to me, and I’d like to think to most people. 

But clearly not all. 

I wanted to work at the IWF after seeing a job vacancy in a local newspaper. The thought of being able to really make a difference to people’s lives, while working for a global leader in its field that was close to my home, really piqued my interest.
You do not need to be a tech genius or computer whizz to work here as we have constant training and working in such a small, tight-knit, co-operative team means there is always someone here who has the skills to assist. What you do need, however, is emotional resilience, an eye for detail and the empathy to reach out to the victims and help them in the best way possible by removing their images of abuse from the internet for good.

Being a parent of teenage children, I am only too aware of the pull that social media has for children – as well as the wider online world – and the dangers and pitfalls that can await them as well as the amazing experiences it can offer. The need for online safety education is so important which is why we work with our partners in the UK Safer Internet Centre to spread the online safety message.

One of the best experiences in my role so far has been to identify a UK victim. She is now an adult but there are indecent self-generated images and videos of her on the internet which were taken at home when she was 16 years old. She came to us herself and we verified that the images were taken when she was under 18 – and therefore a child. The fact that the images were still online and in circulation and that she knows they are out there for anybody to see including potentially her family was causing her great distress and she was finding it difficult to move forward with her life. 

I made a concerted effort within our remit to have every image and video I found of her online removed. Of course, the internet being what it is, it’s very difficult to say they will never be online again but I was able to give her some comfort that there are people that care and will continue to care, which is why I love the job that I do.

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