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Celebrating the people that make IWF great - Henry: I was able to gather identifying information on a victim by analysing a video that was reported to us

By Henry, IWF analyst

Quote IWF analyst Henry

Every now and then you see something horrendous that can rock you to your core. Other times, it feels amazing to help rescue a child.

Recently I was able to gather some identifying information on a victim by analysing a video that was reported to us. It turns out law enforcement had been trying to identify the young girl in the video but had no information to go on. Using our evidence, they were able to narrow the search to a city in the United States and last I heard, the local police there were working on the case. Hopefully we have helped the investigation to progress. To be responsible for rescuing a child would be incredible and makes all the difficult aspects of the job worthwhile. This is what keeps me motivated. 

My background is in criminal and forensic psychology and before I came to the IWF I was working on academic research at a London University. After spending time researching the impact of online grooming on victims in an academic setting and hearing some of the horror stories from the people we interviewed, I really wanted to do something more practical to help tackle the issue of child sexual abuse head on. 

It was through this research that I first heard of the IWF and the amazing work they do. It was clear that they were dedicated to creating a safer online environment by removing child sexual abuse material from the internet while simultaneously working with law enforcement on gathering evidence that may help in identifying an offender or safeguarding a victim. It was exactly the kind of meaningful work I was looking for, so when I saw an advertisement for a role as an analyst, I applied for it immediately and was lucky enough to get the job.

It didn’t take long for me to realise the scale of the problem we face. Analysts examine hundreds of images and videos of child sexual abuse every day. We’ve seen images of babies as young as 18 months being physically tortured as well as being sexually abused. We’ve had parents call the hotline in distress because they have just found videos or images of their own children’s abuse circulating online.  

To help analysts deal with content like this on a daily basis, we undergo an extensive training programme which helps us build resilience to the images we see. We also have an amazing welfare programme and this, combined with the support of my colleagues, gives me the ability to do this difficult job. I like to compare it to when members of the emergency services such as the fire department or the police attend the scene of an horrific accident or crime scene. It’s something that they have to deal with as part of their work. Personally, I don’t think I could ever do their jobs, but I have the ability to do this job and not let it affect me negatively. Therefore, I feel like I have a responsibility to do something many others couldn’t do. I feel like I help make the Internet a safer place for my friends and family and that is a major motivation.

There are many upsides to working for the IWF. I definitely feel like it’s the most meaningful work I’ve ever done, and it feels great to have pride in your work. Any day that we see content being removed from the Internet because of one of our reports is a good day. Many victims of child sexual abuse say that having images of their rape being shared online makes them feel revictimized all over again so anything we can do to stop this from happening is a strong motivator. We don’t only remove images that we find, we also forensically examine them for clues that might help to identify who the child or the abuser is and this can sometimes lead to a child being rescued. There have been instances in the past in which evidence gathered by the IWF has been used by law enforcement to locate and rescue a child that was being abused. 

What could be better than your work being responsible for saving a child from sexual abuse?

Report here