Samantha Morton delivers heart-felt speech on child sexual abuse at Internet Watch Foundation event

Published:  Wed 7 Dec 2022

Hollywood actor Samantha Morton spoke movingly at an event for the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) on Tuesday night (December 6), where she called on the Government to take steps to better protect children online.

The Minority Report star, who last week received the outstanding contribution award at the 25th British Independent Film Awards, first introduced herself as an actress and then as a survivor of child sexual abuse before delivering her speech.

The event in Westminster gathered guests from Government, the third sector, law enforcement and the tech industry to mark the work of the IWF, a not-for-profit child protection charity that finds and removes images and videos of children’s sexual abuse on the internet.

Morton touched briefly on her own experience of growing up in care homes in Nottingham and then shared the harrowing first-hand account of a mother who had discovered her 11-year-old daughter had been groomed online.

The actor described how the child has become withdrawn and suicidal after she was forced to perform sexually in front of the camera for the gratification of abusers. Morton spoke of the despair and desperation on the part of the child’s parents who did not know where or whom to turn to for help.

She said: “That is one parent’s story of how it felt to watch their child go through that [of being groomed online] … that child now cannot be hugged by family members, or touched, is still suicidal, has a serious eating disorder, and never wants to be in a relationship in their life.

“Hopefully they’ll heal and things can change, but sexual abuse, online sexual abuse, where you are forced to do things online, on the camera, and forced to watch other children being abused, is just as serious as in-person physical abuse.

“And I know this, because I live with PTSD… I live with a life-long supply of trauma, that I spend lots of money on dealing with, but not many have that [access to therapy]. And so, these children have no way to get better or heal.”

The actor ended with a heartfelt plea to the tech industry and the UK Government to better protect children online, directing her remarks to Government Minister Paul Scully, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Tech and the Digital Economy, who was also a guest speaker on the night.

In his speech, the MP said the personal testimony of people like Samantha Morton was so important for bringing home the ‘heinous’ nature of the crimes being described and spoke of how important it was to work across government and with organisations like the IWF to tackle the issue of child sexual abuse material online.

Also in attendance at the event was MP Savid Javid, who has worked closely with the IWF in his previous role as Home Secretary and who thanked the organisation for making a ‘huge difference’ in the fight against child sexual abuse online.

IWF Chair, Andrew Puddephatt OBE, opened the evening by saying that while it was important for the IWF as an organisation to come together and celebrate its successes, the event was an opportunity to reflect on the sobering realities that children face and how vital it is that society continues to explore the reasons behind the unceasing demand for child sexual abuse material.

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