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As a precaution against the COVID-19 coronavirus, the Internet Watch Foundation will be operating at a reduced capacity. We provide a vital service for the public and are committed to staying open but there is likely to be a delay responding to reports, emails and calls. People can still report child sexual abuse imagery as normal here.

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Olivia’s story

A survivor's story, told by an IWF analyst

Illustration Annual Report 2018

“I first saw Olivia when she was about three. She was a little girl with big green eyes and golden-brown hair. She was photographed and filmed in a domestic setting. Sadly, it may well have been her home and she was with someone she trusted. Olivia was in the hands of someone who should have looked after her, nurtured her. He betrayed her trust and in the most hideous way possible. Olivia should have been playing with toys enjoying an innocent childhood. Instead, she was subjected to appalling sexual abuse over a number of years. 

“I’ve seen Olivia grow up through cruel images and videos, suffering hideous abuse. She was repeatedly raped and sexually tortured. 

"The abuser made sure his face wasn’t seen and he distorted any image that would expose the crime scene.
It’s highly likely that it was this man, her abuser, who first shared the images of Olivia’s suffering. Other offenders may have followed his lead and done the same. It’s also likely that some have profited financially from sharing this abuse. The suffering of children like Olivia is frequently a commercial crime. And for us, anyone who subsequently shared or paid to view this heinous material contributed to Olivia’s torment. 

"The police rescued Olivia in 2013— she was eight years old at that time—five years after the abuse first began. Her physical abuse ended and the man who stole her childhood was imprisoned. But those images are still in circulation and heartless offenders continue to share and probably profit from Olivia’s misery. 

"We see Olivia every day—five years after she was rescued. To show exactly what ‘repeat victimisation’ means, we counted the number of times we saw Olivia’s image online during a three-month period. We saw her at least 347 times. On average, that’s five times each and every working day. 

"In three out of five times she was being raped, or sexually tortured. Some of her images were found on commercial sites. This means that in these cases, the site operator was profiting from this child’s abuse. 

"We simply don’t know if Olivia was aware that images of her abuse were being shared online. If she was, it’s difficult to imagine how traumatic that knowledge must be, particularly for someone so young. 

"However, we do know, from talking to adults who have suffered re-victimisation, that it’s a mental torture that can blight lives and have an impact on their ability to leave the abuse in the past. Knowing an image of your suffering is being shared or sold online is hard enough. But for survivors, fearing that they could be identified, or even recognised as an adult is terrifying.”

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