Andrew Bevan: Child sexual abuse is being live-streamed right now to a paedophile near you

Child Slavery image
Child Slavery image
Share this article
0
Have your say

Cassie*, like many other schoolgirls, dreams of adventure, travelling around the world and hopes to one day become a tour guide.

Unlike most young girls her age, Cassie was forced to hide a dark secret for many years. Cassie was only twelve years old when she was forced into a particularly cruel and dark form of exploitation – online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC) also known as ‘cybersex trafficking’.

Andrew Bevan, Scotland Director at IJM UK

Andrew Bevan, Scotland Director at IJM UK

Cassie was promised a good education in Manila by a family friend. On arriving in the city, she soon learned that this man was running a global cybersex trafficking ring out of his home. By day, Cassie went to school, but at night and on weekends, she was raped and forced to perform sex acts in front of a webcam.

This vile crime was unimaginable before the digital age. Now, paedophiles and predators anywhere in the world can search online and wire a secure payment to an adult who sets up a ‘show’. Boys and girls – some under two years old – are then abused or forced to perform sex acts in front of a webcam. The more abusive the show, the more the customer pays.

The Philippines is a global hot spot for this, but this problem is not a distant one: online consumers of this terrible abuse are often from places like the USA, Australia, all across the UK and right here in Scotland.

For a quick profit, Cassie’s abuser streamed her abuse online to people around the world. Cassie’s nightmare of exploitation lasted for nearly five years.

International Justice Mission (IJM) is a leading charity in the fight against this horrendous crime. We support law enforcement to rescue children from this abuse, bring perpetrators to justice and help survivors to heal.

Cassie and six others were rescued from this abuse by Filipino law enforcement supported by IJM. Cassie’s abuser was arrested and has been convicted. 54 per cent of the children rescued in IJM-supported operations were under 12 years old, the youngest of which only three months old.

The need to stop this gross human rights violation is urgent and vital.

Shockingly, 69 per cent of IJM- supported rescues involved a family member or someone close to the family perpetrating the abuse. All abusers need is a mobile phone and access to the internet, making this a high profit margin hidden crime, that is complex and challenging for law enforcement to tackle.

Last month, a retired lieutenant colonel in the British Army and former Head of Security for the British Embassy, was sentenced for directing and watching the live-streamed sexual abuse of Filipino children.

According to the National Crime Agency, 70-year-old Andrew Whiddett paid thousands of pounds to direct the live-streamed sexual abuse of children. The NCA proved that Whiddett, from Portsmouth, paid to watch a girl as young as nine being abused via Skype from his home. Whiddett has been jailed for 38 months after admitting to six charges related to directing the sexual abuse of children online.

A year ago, six children in the Philippines aged from three to 14 years old were rescued by Philippine police supported by IJM, after their mother offered them for online sexual exploitation to undercover agents posing as customers. The operation was a result of a referral from the NCA connected to Whiddett.

Sam Inocencio, Jr, National Director of IJM Philippines, said of Whiddett’s conviction ‘This illustrates how close coordination among international law enforcement agencies is the most effective way to deter OSEC – what we see as the most serious threat to Filipino children today…’

IJM recently formed a partnership with the UK NCA, Philippine and Australian law enforcement to promote best practice and facilitate intelligence sharing to more effectively tackle this form of abuse.

With greater resources and a global effort to tackle this global crime, OSEC can be effectively fought.

IJM’s work with law enforcement in the Philippines saw the number of children available for sex on streets and in bars plummet by 75 per cent and 86 per cent over five years in the cities where we worked. We know that when laws are enforced and criminals realise they can’t get away with it, crimes like this decrease dramatically.

Ending this vile abuse requires urgent action from international law enforcement, tech companies, global governments – and each of us. We all have a role to play.

You can join the fight to end this cruel crime at www.ijmuk.org.

Join us in helping girls like Cassie dream again, “I want to travel all over the world to see new things, to learn new things, to share to other people, to give them hope.”

*pseudonym used

Andrew Bevan, Scotland Director at IJM UK