The Internet Watch Foundation’s (IWF) ‘Once Upon a Year’ features a true story about a child called Olivia whose rape and sexual torture is seen daily online. The charity also announces its ambition to stop the demand for child sexual abuse images.

IWF has traced the experiences of Olivia, a child who was repeatedly raped and sexually tortured from the age of three until she was rescued from her abuser when she was eight. Despite being rescued in 2013, IWF analysts see her images daily, which are still being shared online.

IWF launches 'Once Upon a Year' and vows to tackle the demand for images of child rape

Once Upon a Year is the IWF’s Annual Report 2018. It’s a story no one wants to read or to understand, but it’s real. It is released today and includes Olivia’s story, as well as the latest statistics and trends in identifying and removing child sexual abuse imagery around the world.

In summary:

  • The IWF found record amounts (105,047 URLs) of child sexual abuse imagery last year due to improving its technology to help speed up the detection and assessment of the criminal images.
  • 2018’s figures also show that the amount of child sexual abuse imagery hosted in the UK is at its lowest level ever recorded – 0.04% of the global total. In 1996, 18% was hosted in the UK.
  • Every five minutes IWF analysts find the image or video of a childlike Olivia being sexually abused, and 4 out of 5 times this is hosted in a European country.
  • Almost half (47%) of all the imagery found last year was discovered in the Netherlands.
  • IWF has offered support to the Dutch organisation dealing with child sexual abuse imagery.
  • Images which show the youngest children will also likely show more severe abuse.  
IWF launches 'Once Upon a Year' and vows to tackle the demand for images of child rape
IWF CEO Susie Hargreaves OBE

CEO Susie Hargreaves OBE said:

“For 23 years we have been removing from the internet images and videos showing the sexual abuse of children.

“Despite us removing more and more images than ever before, and despite creating and using some of the world’s leading technology, it’s clear that this problem is far from being solved.

“The cause of the problem is the demand. Unfortunately, and as the police tell us often, there are 100,000 people sitting in the UK right now demanding images of the abuse of children like Olivia. This is a global challenge and no doubt every country’s police force will have their own estimations of this criminality.

“With this continued demand for images of child rape, it’s a constant battle.

“That’s why we’re calling for all the partners to get together to run a long term, well-funded prevention campaign. Without this, the battle just can’t be won.

“We’ve released ‘Once upon a Year’ to help explain the experiences of Olivia and the many other children out there just like her who suffer repeated rape. Throughout this year we will release more stories of children we see every day.”

This shift in direction supports the Government’s intention to make the UK the safest place to be online.

Ms Hargreaves continued:

“We see the Online Harms White Paper as a huge opportunity for us all to step up and have a greater impact for people who use the internet and for child victims of sexual abuse.

“Whilst pursuing a prevent agenda, we owe it to children like Olivia to keep doing what we currently do well, because they need to know that someone is here removing their images and videos. Prevention and removal should be tackled together.”

IWF launches 'Once Upon a Year' and vows to tackle the demand for images of child rape

IWF will now begin an ambitious plan and will look further than tackling the creation of images but also the role it can play against the grooming of children and potentially live streaming of child sexual abuse.