IWF launches 'Once Upon a Year' and vows to tackle the demand for images of child rape

Published:  Tue 23 Apr 2019

IWF has traced the experiences of Olivia, a child who was repeatedly raped and sexually tortured from the age of three until she was rescued from her abuser when she was eight. Despite being rescued in 2013, IWF analysts see her images daily, which are still being shared online. 

Once Upon a Year is the IWF’s Annual Report 2018. It’s a story no one wants to read, or to understand, but it’s real. It is released tomorrow (25 April) and includes Olivia’s story, as well as the latest statistics and trends in identifying and removing child sexual abuse imagery around the world. 

In summary:

  • The IWF found record amounts (105,047 URLs) of child sexual abuse imagery last year due to improving its technology to help speed up the detection and assessment of the criminal images.
  • 2018’s figures also show that the amount of child sexual abuse imagery hosted in the UK is at its lowest level ever recorded – 41 URLs or 0.04% of the global total. In 1996, 18% was hosted in the UK.
  • Every five minutes IWF analysts find the image or video of a child like Olivia being sexually abused, and 4 out of 5 times this is hosted in a European country.
  • Almost half (47%) of all the imagery found last year was discovered in the Netherlands.
  • IWF has offered support to the Dutch organisation dealing with child sexual abuse imagery. 

“For 23 years we have been removing from the internet images and videos showing the sexual abuse of children,” said CEO Susie Hargreaves OBE.

“Despite us removing more and more images than ever before, and despite creating and using some of the world’s leading technology, it’s clear that this problem is far from being solved. 

“The cause of the problem is the demand. Unfortunately, and as the police tell us often, there are 100,000 people sitting in the UK right now demanding images of the abuse of children like Olivia. This is a global challenge and no doubt every country’s police force will have their own estimations of this criminality. 

“With this continued demand for images of child rape, it’s a constant battle.

“That’s why we’re calling for all the partners to get together to run a long term, well-funded prevention campaign. Without this, the battle just can’t be won. 

“We’ve released ‘Once upon a Year’ to help explain the experiences of Olivia and the many other children out there just like her who suffer repeated rape. Throughout this year we will release more stories of children we see every day.”

This shift in direction supports the Government’s intention to make the UK the safest place to be online. 

Ms Hargreaves continued: “We see the Online Harms White Paper as a huge opportunity for us all to step up and have a greater impact for people who use the internet and for child victims of sexual abuse. 

“Whilst pursuing a prevent agenda, we owe it to children like Olivia to keep doing what we currently do well, because they need to know that someone is here removing their images and videos. Prevention and removal should be tackled together.” 
IWF will now begin an ambitious plan and will look further than tackling the creation of images but also the role it can play against the grooming of children and potentially livestreaming of child sexual abuse.

Minister for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability Victoria Atkins said: “Olivia’s story is a heartbreaking example of the horrific ordeal that victims of child sexual abuse can go through. Tackling this sickening crime is a top priority of the Government.
“The IWF do incredible work in removing this content from the web, but we need to stop this material from appearing in the first place. The Online Harms White Paper, launched this month, will ensure that tech companies have a legal responsibility to remove this vile material from their platforms with severe sanctions for those that do not.”

Once Upon a Year can be found here

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