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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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'There is a real child in every image, and every image is a crime scene': An analyst's story

IWF analyst 'Lucy' spoke to the BBC about her work tracking down and fighting against online child sexual abuse.

IWF Analyst Lucy

An IWF analyst says every online image and video of children suffering sexual abuse is “a crime scene” as she speaks out in a new documentary about how criminals are exploiting the coronavirus crisis.

The BBC’s File on 4 spoke to the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) to investigate how criminals are looking to exploit the coronavirus crisis. The programme looked at fears some people may be looking to use the lockdown period to sexually exploit children.

IWF analyst “Lucy” has continued to work throughout the crisis. Analysts work in the IWF’s headquarters in Cambridge to track down and assess child sexual abuse material on the internet.

Once it has been identified, the IWF can work with partners to make sure it is blocked and removed from the internet.

IWF analysts were designated key workers at the start of the lockdown period, with special measures being brought in to ensure they could continue their work keeping children safe online.

"Criminal activity is going on in their bedrooms and the parents are just outside. It is heart-breaking.”

The programme notes Lucy is “a key worker on a very different front line”, and hears how she deals with the demands of the job, and why it is so important to keep doing it.

Speaking on the BBC’s File on 4, Lucy said: “We see hundreds and hundreds of images every week.

“Sometimes if there is sound attached to these videos we have heard parents calling their children down for dinner, or calling them down to have a word with them, and that is so upsetting because criminal activity is going on in their bedrooms and the parents are just outside. It is heart-breaking.”

She added: “I get told by people that they couldn’t do the job that I do, and they wonder why I’m not crying into my dinner every night. We all want to eradicate this criminal content from the internet. We all understand that there is a real child in every image, and that every image is a crime scene.

“So we want to disrupt and eradicate this content and stop those offenders accessing it and to stop those children being revictimised.”

The last words in the documentary go to Lucy, who says physically leaving the Hotline after work allows her to draw a line under the day and distance herself from the images and videos she has seen at work.

"We all understand that there is a real child in every image, and that every image is a crime scene."

She said: “I kind of treat the airlock and the many doors I need to exit as a way of physically leaving those images behind. I can’t have them coming home with me.

“So now I have my 30 minute journey home. This allows me some time to get my resilience to kick in, get rid of the day, so I can walk through my front door and be mother and wife to my family. This normally involves choosing some music on my playlist and playing it very very loud.”

You can find out more about the work of the IWF's analysts, and their battle against online child sexual abuse material by listening to the IWF's new six part podcast series Pixels From a Crime Scene. 

Pixels from a Crime Scene is available to download at www.iwf.org.uk/pixels-from-a-crime-scene or on:

Spotify, https://open.spotify.com/show/2Xb0md8iOfMTrs4vPoOGMr

Stitcher, https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/pixels-from-a-crime-scene

and TuneIn.  https://tunein.com/podcasts/True-Crime-Podcasts/Pixels-from-a-Crime-Scene-p1310097/

 

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