Imagine your darkest moments exposed to an unknown number of people. Then imagine strangers watching your pain for sexual satisfaction. That’s what happens for some of the children whose abuse images we see online. Each day I work as an analyst I question how people are so determined to abuse, coerce and exploit children sexually, let alone record it and pass it around.
I can’t step into a video or image and stop what is happening, but I can help stop it existing online, and that’s why IWF exists, and why I do the job I do. These children are real, and they should have someone to stick up for them. It’s a privilege to be on their side and stop them being revictimized all over again.
Sometimes a video or image will hit us harder than normal. In one video, a little girl no older than six was being raped and filmed by an adult in a home setting. She looked tired and resigned, as though this had become her ‘normal’. Sadly, I saw her images several times in the course of the same day. I remember wondering whether it would ever end for her.
Working as an analyst at IWF made me realise just how big the problem of online child sexual abuse is. It’s a human issue, spread by technology like never before, and we have a lot of work to do.
Despite the challenges of our roles, us analysts are a bonded team. We never know what we’re going to see when you load a website or open a file, so it helps to be around colleagues that you trust when you might be feeling vulnerable.
Over the years I’ve spent a lot of time listening to survivors of childhood sexual abuse and hearing how that experience has stood in the way of their life so many times. Coming to work at IWF meant I could make a practical difference in stopping children be revictimized online. It feels good to know that we’re helping to make the internet a safer place.