In the last financial year, the center processed 36,600 online child abuse reports – more than 60 percent more than the previous year with 22,600.
In 2021/22, AFP arrested more than 230 people and filed more than 2030 child abuse charges. More than 110 children, including some in Australia, have been saved from harm as a result of these investigations.
But Gemma McKibbin, a research fellow at the University of Melbourne, an expert who leads the Disrupting Child Exploitation project, says the reports are “just the tip of the iceberg”.
“We are facing a tsunami of child exploitation online,” she said.
“Perpetrators have really figured out how to use social media and other types of networking platforms to target children.”
The center has linked the surge in reports to better detection and greater community awareness. Clayworth, however, reflects McKibbin’s concern that predators are tailoring their offenses to children based on “what’s in fashion”.
This includes everything from online gaming like Minecraft and Fortnite to social media platforms like Facebook and TikTok.
Predators don’t hide on “obscure, shady websites” or in closed communities, says Clayworth.
“[As] More and more young people are going online [and] devices and technology [are] develop…criminals will just take advantage of that – that’s what they do.”
Clayworth has also seen more self-produced child abuse material being circulated by offenders.
Children can be manipulated or blackmailed into producing the content, and McKibbin says the threat of brute force combined with deep embarrassment and shame can discourage children from speaking up about their abuse.
“They are ashamed that they are being made to videotape these often extremely degrading sexual acts,” she said.
Clayworth says predators tried to use the COVID-19 pandemic “as a means of accessing children,” but investigators continued to hunt them down and prosecute them.
As he and his team deal with the trauma of being constantly exposed to child abuse content that can only be described as “terrible,” he sweats it out at the gym and knows he can discuss things with his fiancée.
“Also the team here is a very strong, cohesive team… that’s a really big element in terms of how we’re going about things [on a] in everyday life,” he said.
“There are strategies and things we do to try and minimize your exposure, such as not watching some of the videos with sound.”
McKibbin believes social media companies have “dirty hands” when it comes to “enabling” child sexual abuse and that reform is needed to stop the spread of such material online.
Under online safety laws passed last year, industry groups must create codes to reduce the risk of illegal and harmful content online, including child sexual exploitation material.
The codes are open to public feedback and the eSafety Commissioner will review them later this year before ticking them off for implementation.
lifeline 13 11 14; Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800 (for people aged 5 to 25)
https://www.smh.com.au/national/australia-facing-tsunami-of-child-abuse-20220925-p5bku2.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_national Australia is facing a ‘tsunami’ of child abuse