Daily Bulletin


The Conversation

  • Written by The Conversation
imageThe term 'child pornography' is not only inaccurate, it is also potentially damaging.shutterstock

The Victorian government recently proposed changes to “child pornography” legislation. The new laws will double the criminal penalties for possessing child abuse material from five to ten years’ imprisonment.

The Victorian laws, if passed, will also introduce three new criminal offences:

  • administering a child pornography website;

  • encouraging use of a website to deal with child pornography; and

  • providing assistance to another person to avoid apprehension for a child pornography offence.

The legal changes are welcome. But the continued use by politicians and the media of the term “child pornography” minimises the seriousness of these crimes. Applying the term “child pornography” to photographic and digitised images of child abuse contributes to the view that the person committing the offence was “only looking” and “so what’s the harm”.

Calling it what it is

There are three key problems with not calling these images what they are: online child abuse material, or child exploitation material.

First, it creates a false distinction between the viewing of images and the contact sexual abuse of a child. Not only does research suggest that there is an overlap between those who view child abuse material and those who engage in contact sexual offences, but the viewing of the material also contributes to the demand for its production.

Viewing the material needs to be understood as collusion in the continued sexual abuse of children. For victim-survivors, the knowledge that images of their abuse continue to be viewed and distributed extends the trauma of the original crime. Viewing these images is not somehow a virtual or victimless crime.

Second, it potentially mislabels the material as a legally acceptable form of pornography. Using the term “pornography” likens online child abuse material to an acceptable sub-genre of mainstream, adult, consensual pornography. Online child abuse material represents the photographic or video evidence of a criminal act against infants, children and young people.

Third, it contributes to the normalisation of child sexual assault. Research suggests that perpetrators sometimes use online child abuse material to desensitise themselves to the impact of their actions prior to committing a sexual offence, or to “mentally rehearse” the abuse. Perpetrators also use online child abuse material to “groom” child victims in preparation for contact sexual offences against them.

The images normalise that other children or young people are “doing these things”, and make it easier for an offender to coerce victims into sexual contact. It is in part for this reason that Australia and the United Kingdom, among others, have passed laws criminalising computer-generated, hand-drawn or otherwise simulated images of child sexual abuse – though not without some disagreement.

The extent of the problem

Figures released in early July by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) showed a 550% increase in investigations into online child abuse material.

Such is the extent of the problem that ACMA not only has a role in the investigation of the use of online child abuse material but also in its removal. There is an ongoing attempt to stop the dissemination of such material both locally and globally.

The Victorian government’s proposed changes are a timely recognition that these crimes represent serious sexual abuse or exploitation of infants, children and young people. These laws will further support police to investigate and respond to these crimes quickly. This is particularly important, since forensic analysis of the images can help identify current victims of sexual abuse both in Australia and internationally.

The legislative changes are a crucial part of the response to child exploitation. But they must be accompanied by greater public awareness and partnership with industry, as well as improved service sector responses to online child sexual abuse.

Technology giants Google and Microsoft, for example, have supported the development of technology to assist in the identification and removal of child abuse material. Despite this, police reportedly experience barriers when investigating perpetrators involved in the dissemination of the material online. These include the sheer scale of the problem, insufficient resources to support investigations both in Australia and in collaboration with police internationally, as well as sometimes a lack of co-operation from online and social media service providers.

Research further highlights the damaging impacts of online child abuse material for “affected” partners, families and communities of people who possess or distribute online child abuse material – in Victoria and Australia-wide. Much more needs to be done to support and respond to affected partners and their families.

We should stop using the term “child pornography” to talk about these crimes. Not only is it inaccurate, it is potentially damaging.


If you know of someone who has used or is using online child abuse material, you can report this to your local police or the Australian Federal Police. You can report offensive or illegal content you find online to the Australian Media and Communications Authority. For support or advice about someone you know using online child abuse material, you can also contact PartnerSPEAK.org.au.

Marg Liddell has received funding from the Cooperative Research Council; + local government funding for a research projects. She is a Board Member of the not-for-profit online support organisation - PartnerSPEAK.org.au

Anastasia Powell receives funding from the Australian Research Council, and is currently undertaking research on technology-facilitated forms of sexual violence and harassment.

Authors: The Conversation

Read more http://theconversation.com/whats-in-a-name-online-child-abuse-material-is-not-pornography-45840

Writers Wanted

The open Australian beach is a myth: not everyone can access these spaces equally

arrow_forward

Expect the new normal for NZ's temperature to get warmer

arrow_forward

The Conversation
INTERWEBS DIGITAL AGENCY

Politics

Ray Hadley's interview with Scott Morrison

RAY HADLEY: Prime Minister, good morning.    PRIME MINISTER: G’day Ray.   HADLEY: I was just referring to this story from the Courier Mail, which you’ve probably caught up with today about t...

Ray Hadley & Scott Morrison - avatar Ray Hadley & Scott Morrison

Prime Minister's Remarks to Joint Party Room

PRIME MINISTER: Well, it is great to be back in the party room, the joint party room. It’s great to have everybody back here. It’s great to officially welcome Garth who joins us. Welcome, Garth...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Prime Minister Interview with Ben Fordham, 2GB

BEN FORDHAM: Scott Morrison, good morning to you.    PRIME MINISTER: Good morning, Ben. How are you?    FORDHAM: Good. How many days have you got to go?   PRIME MINISTER: I've got another we...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Business News

7 foolproof tips for bidding successfully at a property auction

Auctions can be beneficial for prospective buyers, as they are transparent and fair. If you reach the limit you are willing to pay, you can simply walk away. Another benefit of an auction is tha...

Dominique Grubisa - avatar Dominique Grubisa

Getting Ready to Code? These Popular and Easy Programming Languages Can Get You Started

According to HOLP (History Encyclopedia of Programing Languages), there are more than 8,000 programming languages, some dating as far back as the 18th century. Although there might be as many pr...

News Co - avatar News Co

Avoid These Mistakes When Changing up Your Executive Career

Switching up industries is a valid move at any stage in your career, even if you’re an executive. Doing so at this stage can be a lot more intimidating, however, and it can be quite difficult know...

News Co - avatar News Co



News Co Media Group

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion