Online porn linked to child sex abuse

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London - Thousands of children in England are at high risk of sexual exploitation – and in half the cases, the impact of online porn is partly to blame, a devastating report found.

Some 16,500 youngsters – the equivalent of 20 medium-sized secondary schools – were identified over the course of one year as displaying signs of being vulnerable to being raped or otherwise sexually abused.

Contrary to expectations, many were from “loving and stable” middle-class homes, with children as young as four at risk.

The study by Sue Berelowitz, the deputy children’s commissioner, into sexual exploitation by urban gangs found that the “use and impact” of pornography was a major factor in 48 percent of interviews with abuse victims and perpetrators.

She said the easy access of porn online skewed young people’s views about what is “acceptable, required or expected” of sex – and could leave boys seeing girls as “objects to be used and abused”.

Berelowitz said naive younger people were “wandering round” in the “thicket” of the internet, adding: “There are some neighbourhoods where sexual violence and a sense of entitlement were completely normalised.”

The report warned that it was “rare” to find abuse cases where technology such as mobile phones and computers were not in some way connected.

This includes encouraging girls to swap sexually explicit images on mobiles, adults grooming children on social networking sites such as Facebook, and the viewing of extreme or violent pornography and discussing it during sexual assaults.

 

The interim report found that at least 16,500 children were identified as being at risk between April 2010 and March 2011.

Children were counted if they met at least three out of 13 risk measures highlighted by experts. These included going missing from home, care or school; committing a crime; using drugs or alcohol; self-harming; or getting repeated sexual infections.

Some 2,409 children were also confirmed as being victims of exploitation by gangs and groups between August 2010 and October 2011, with 15 being the peak age for abuse.

The report used evidence from police forces, councils, health trusts and other official bodies to reach its conclusions. It means that the figures of 16,500 and 2,409 are only those known to authorities. The true figures will be much higher.

On Tuesday night Berelowitz said: “The reality is that each year, thousands of children in England are raped and abused by people seeking to humiliate, violate and control them. The impact on their lives is devastating.

“These children have been abducted, trafficked, beaten and threatened after being drawn into a web of sexual violence sometimes by promises of love and sometimes simply because they know there is no alternative.

“This abuse and violence can be relentless and take place anywhere – as they go home from school, as they walk to the shops, in their local park.

“It is vital agencies improve the information they share about the victims and those at risk of sexual exploitation, so that children can be better protected.”

The report pointed out that not all victims were from troubled backgrounds, saying: “Children from loving and secure homes can be abused in gangs and groups, as well as children with pre-existing vulnerabilities.”

Shockingly, around one in ten abuse cases happen in schools.

The study also blamed the impact of technology giving easy access to online porn, saying: “An abused child might be left assuming that pain and violence, inflicted by several people at once, is the norm in sexual activity.”

It said pornography could contribute “to ideas about entitlement, the sexual objectification of women and children, humiliating and violent sexual acts that may underpin child sexual exploitation”.

Jon Brown, NSPCC lead on sexual abuse, said: “Girls are increasingly telling ChildLine that they are constantly pestered and even forced into mimicking shocking and violent sexual videos. And many are filmed and then have these videos distributed or posted online. It’s a major and growing problem.”

The report was initiated by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner for England. - Daily Mail

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