By Kotie Geldenhuys
Every child involved in the production of a child pornographic image is a victim of sexual abuse. In the majority of online child sexual abuse cases, the abuse is not a one-time event, but rather ongoing victimisation that continues for months or even years. Victims suffer not only from the sexual abuse imposed upon them to produce child pornography, but also from the fact that their images can be marketed and viewed by people across the world. Once an image is on the Internet, it is irreversible. The indefinite record of a child’s sexual abuse can change the child’s life forever.
On 7 September 2012, a nine-minute long black and white video was uploaded on YouTube in which a young girl silently told her story through a series of white cards, written on with a black marker. She can only be seen from her nose down for most of the video, occasionally moving around so that her face is visible. The video begins with these words: “Hello, I’ve decided to tell you about my never-ending story” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M5kVwW92bqQ).
The young girl described how she used webcam chats to meet and talk to new people online as a seventh-grade student, including a man who pressured her to flash her breasts. One year later, she complied and the man took a photo of her breasts. The man put the photo online and sent it to everyone she knew – it ended up on a Facebook page made by the stranger, to which her friends were added. She described being called names, eating lunch alone and resorting to cutting herself. The young girl changed schools but she described an incident where she made a “huge mistake” and “hooked up” with a boy at her school who had a girlfriend, but who she believed really liked her. A week later she received a text message telling her to get out of school and then a group of students, led by the boy’s girlfriend, surrounded her at school and said: “Look around, nobody likes you.” “A guy then yelled, ‘Just punch her already,’ so the girlfriend did. She threw me to the ground and punched me several times. Kids filmed it. I was all alone and left on the ground.” When she got home, she drank bleach. She wrote: “It killed me inside and I thought I was actually going to die.” She was rushed to hospital to flush her stomach. More anxiety, cutting and overdosing followed, her struggles with anxiety and cutting herself got worse, and despite counselling and anti-depressants, she was rushed to hospital again after another overdose. The last cards simply read: “I have nobody. I need someone. My name is Amanda Todd.” Beneath the video, she posted a note saying that she produced it not for attention, but “to be an inspiration and to show that I can be strong. Everyone’s future will be bright one day, you just gotta pull through. I’m still here, aren’t I?” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M5kVwW92bqQ).
[This is only an extract of an article that is published in Servamus: October 2023. This article is available for purchase.]