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Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime Recommends Changes to Address Internet-Facilitated Child Sexual Abuse

OTTAWA (Ontario), June 2, 2009 - The Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime (FOVC) today released its first special report Every Image, Every Child which makes nine recommendations to the federal government on how to address the difficult issue of internet-facilitated child sexual abuse.

According to the report, internet-facilitated child sexual abuse is growing at an alarming rate. Between 1998 and 2003, the number of charges for production or distribution of child pornography increased by 800 percent and between 2003 and 2007 the number of images of serious child abuse quadrupled. In addition to increased volume, the images are getting more violent and feature younger children. Statistics show that 83 percent of children are 12 years old or younger and over 80 percent of the images involve penetration.

Through Every Image, Every Child FOVC urges the federal government to amend laws and policies to make investigations faster and more effective by:

  • introducing legislation to make it mandatory for Internet service providers to give law enforcement basic customer name and address information upon request;
  • requiring internet service providers to keep data and internet surfing records for longer periods to ensure that evidence is not destroyed; and
  • making it a criminal offence to refuse to give law enforcement a password or encryption information during an investigation.

"Giving law enforcement the tools they need to quickly and effectively investigate these cases is the first and most basic step in addressing this issue," said Steve Sullivan, the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime. "Each case represents more than a chance to catch an offender, it represents a chance to help a child who is suffering horrific abuse."

Every Image, Every Child also encourages the federal government to support stronger efforts to find and help the child victims in the photos. This includes recommendations to:

  • increase the capacity of the RCMP's National Child Exploitation Coordination Centre to identify and rescue the child victims in the images;
  • support research into the impact of internet-facilitated child sexual abuse on children; and
  • more effectively help victimized children through special child-friendly multi-disciplinary child advocacy centres.

"These children suffer a unique horror," explains Sullivan "in addition to the actual abuse, they have to cope with the constant fear and humiliation of knowing that their image is being traded around the world and could surface anytime. That's why support for victims is so important. Child Advocacy Centres are one solution that benefits the children and the community. Not only do these centres provide coordinated child-friendly services, they are less expensive and result in more charges and guilty pleas as well as higher conviction rates."

Finally, Every Image, Every Child recommends the federal government consider the trauma these children face knowing their image is being shared and introduce new measures to reduce distribution. Specifically, the report recommends imposing strict rules on how evidence is shared with defence counsel and requiring internet service providers to block access to sites that contain child sexual abuse material.

The complete report, along with a backgrounder summarizing the recommendations and a statistical summary, is available by calling the Office toll-free at: 1-866-481-8429.

Created in 2007, the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime helps victims to address their needs, promotes their interests and makes recommendations to the federal government on issues that negatively impact victims.

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Media contact

For more information please contact:

Christina McDonald
Senior Communications Advisor
Telephone: 613-941-3428