A million pointless candles

The latest online viral \”ease your conscience by doing fuck all\” meme is Light A Million Candles To Stop Online Child Abuse (this doesn\’t literally mean online child abuse, which would be bizarre; it means using the Internet to access images of child sexual abuse. As far as I can make out, images of other sorts of child abuse are fine).

I think we can safely all agree that child abuse is a bad thing – obviously, as with all pointless platitudes, there is a great deal of debate at the boundaries (currently, someone caught in the UK with pictures of a 17 year old posing in a bikini is technically guilty of possessing child pornography; if you think this is sensible then you are insane), but there\’s certainly a consensus as you move away from the margin.

According to this group\’s own propaganda video (naturally, featuring \”99% of statistics are made up on the spot\”-type FACTS without any kind of references), \”4 to 5 new faces [ie children in child porn images who haven\’t previously been spotted in child porn by law enforcement agencies] are discovered every week\”. Given that law enforcement agencies aren\’t totally shit, we can assume this is a reasonably high proportion of the total number made available – for conservatism, I\’ll say 10% (which is insanely low, but never mind). So 50 new children are sexually abused every week worldwide for internet porn purposes, meaning 2,500 a year.

There are a billion people in places with readily available Internet access. To avoid having to look up demographic data, I\’ll say that means 200,000,000 children (actually, there are more). Assuming that over an 18-year period the chance of abuse remains constant (obviously it doesn\’t, but the end chances of a child having been abused for Internet porn by age 18 are effectively the same either way and it makes the sums easier), this means that 0.0225% of children will be abused for Internet porn.

The generally quoted figure for the prevalence of sexual abuse in childhood is around 20% for girls and 10% for boys (some surveys report higher levels). Based on this total incidence, online child abuse accounts for 1 in every 700 cases of child sexual abuse. And remember, this estimate assumes that the police only find 1/10 of images traded online, which does not tally with most actual reports on the subject.

Abuse by friends and relatives (which obviously encompasses most of the online cases as well) accounts for something rather closer to 700 out of every 700 cases of child sexual abuse. A more effective viral campaign would be something along the lines of \”just because he\’s your brother or your friend doesn\’t mean he\’s above suspicion if your kid starts behaving weirdly\”.

But that would shift child sexual abuse away from being something committed by semen-encrusted hoboes like Sidney Cooke and Roy Whiting and by shadowy Russian pimps and pornographers, toward being something committed by your friends and family (given the incidence of child sexual abuse in society, it is highly likely that someone you know and trust has sexually abused a child). And that would make people feel uncomfortable, instead of giving them a meaningless emotional high.

3 thoughts on “A million pointless candles

  1. Doormat says:

    Occasionally, PDF comes out with a post which is absolutely fucking excellent: eloquent, sensible, and slightly unsettling…

  2. Emily says:

    I was abused for 10 years. I’ve been blogging about it. Here is what I wrote about sentencing and how I felt about it. In the comments I discuss my views on the sex offences register, which, as you point out, is particularly fucking useless when most children are abused by family members or friends of the family with no previous record. They wouldn’t have been on the register but the danger is still there. Add to that the thousands upon thousands of cases of sexual abuse that go unreported. It is precisely those you are closest to who needs watching. There are only about four or five cases of stranger child abductions each year. It’s just the media give them a higher profile. For more…


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