Australian children as young as eight are coerced into live sex acts by online predators, who often record and share the videos on the darknet and sexually extort the victims to produce even more graphic content.
The offense, known as the ‘catch cap’, is one of the fastest growing trends in online child sexual abuse and children are the prey of all social media. and video streaming platforms.
Australian victim identification specialists see increased volume of new videos produced every week on dark web abuse forums and believe hundreds of thousands of children in Australia and around the world have been cheated or coerced unwittingly producing sexualized videos.
Many children think they are interacting with a boy or girl of the same age and may not realize that their intimate act has been recorded and broadcast online, making them a victim of child sexual exploitation.
In other cases, once an offender obtains a recording of a victim, he will use it to blackmail him and threaten to provide more explicit material, a crime known as sexual extortion or of “sextortion”.
With offenders using COVID-19 restrictions as an opportunity to find more potential child victims, AFP’s education and prevention program ThinkUKnow is releasing a new guide today (Saturday, September 11) for help parents and caregivers keep their children safe online during lockdowns.
Victim identification specialist Detective Sergeant Svetlana Palmer of the AFP-led Australian Child Exploitation Center (ACCCE) said investigators hope that by highlighting the worrying trend from “capping” they can encourage children who have become victims to seek help and report the crime.
âWe want to end the stigma of talking about child abuse and shift the shame from victims to offenders,â said Detective Sgt. Palmer.
âChild victims must be reassured. Help is available and by reporting what has happened they can help us catch an abuser and prevent other children from being harmed. “
She warned that the “capers” were using fear, coercion and manipulation to maintain crime.
“In addition to threats and coercion, victims often feel they have done something wrong and will be punished by parents or caregivers, or prosecuted by the police, if their actions are discovered,” said Detective Sergeant Palmer.
âIf your child is or has been a victim, reassure him that it is not his fault and that there is help available.
âChildren and young people are never to blame for being the victims of child sexual exploitation online. The first step to breaking the cycle is telling a trusted adult.
Queensland Police Service Victim Identification Specialist Scott Anderson, a member of ACCCE’s Argos, works on the team that monitors online abuse forums to identify victims and offenders.
He said the team was finding out that “cappers” often masqueraded as teenagers or model agents to gain the trust of their young victims, who are typically between 12 and 15 years old.
Offenders can broadcast a video they recorded of a teenager stripping naked and engaging in sexual activity, to trick another into believing he is watching it live and then in return, he said. declared.
When asked why they are not speaking on the video, the offenders claim that their microphone is broken and that they can only communicate using the messaging features.
“These offenders are very manipulative and in extreme cases they have tricked children into undressing and engaging in sexual acts in front of a camera within 10 minutes of being contacted via a video streaming platform,” M said. Anderson.
The coercion and sextortion used by offenders to obtain additional material can cause significant fear and trauma.
Sometimes the blackmail extends to forcing the child to include other friends or siblings in the sexually explicit behavior.
Often, offenders post material on dark web forums to gain bragging rights within competing co-offender networks.
The cappers also share tips and identifying information about their victims, such as their social media IDs, to allow other forum members to target that child for further abuse.
Offenders also hunt in packs, with several offenders approaching a single victim and vouching for each other so that they all gain the child’s trust.
A single capper can target dozens of victims in a matter of hours and produce a high volume of videos in a single night.
The cap is very targeted, relentless and potentially quite traumatic for victims who may not know where to turn for help.
Mr Anderson said he had investigated cases where children threatened to self-harm after a “capper” released a blackmail video to the victim’s network of friends and families. Others have been tricked into committing heinous and humiliating sexual acts to prevent the release of previous videos. He hopes the increased awareness will prevent another child from falling victim to child abuse online.
Despite the number of videos circulating online, police say many victims are unwilling to report the abuse and even deny that anything has happened if they are identified and contacted by law enforcement.
AFP urges parents to have regular conversations with their children about their online activities. To help them navigate these conversations, parents can refer to the Covid Lockdown: What You Need To Know To Protect Your Child From Online Child Sexual Exploitation, which is released today to coincide with the last day. of National Child Protection Week 2021.
Developed as part of AFP’s education and prevention program, ThinkUKnow, the guide provides parents with simple steps they can take to manage risk. It also provides parents with information on what they can do if they think or know a child is being exploited online.
Some of AFP’s best tips for keeping children safe include setting their social media account’s privacy settings to “friends only” or “private” to make sure they are not contacted by anyone. one who wants to hurt them, and turn off all location settings. it could show where they go to school or where they live. Parents should also encourage children not to share any personal information with “friends” they meet online.
The guide is available at www.thinkuknow.org.au and www.accce.gov.au
ACCCE is committed to ending the exploitation and abuse of children and is at the center of a collaborative national approach to tackle organized child abuse.
The Center brings together specialist expertise and skills in a central hub, supporting investigations into child sexual abuse and developing prevention strategies focused on creating a safer online environment.
Members of the public who have information on those involved in child abuse and exploitation are encouraged to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-333,000 or report online.
If you or someone you know is affected by child sexual abuse and online exploitation, support services are available.