The Children in the Pictures

The Children in the Pictures Documentary

Child sexual abuse is preventable, not inevitable 


The Children in the Pictures documentary, aired in Australia in 2021 and in the UK on Channel 4 January 2024, takes us into Task Force Argos, a renowned Australian-based police investigative team, as they go undercover to rescue children from online sexual abuse. From infiltrating global criminal networks to hunting down the abusers, the Argos team shines a light on the dark reality of online child sexual abuse and the fight we all face in stopping it. 


When you start on your first day working in this unit, a task force Argos, one of the first things you’ll have is a conversation with me. And we’ll have the discussion around what are we dealing with here. Children are being sexually abused, photographed, and this being filmed, and this being distributed across networks, across the world”. 


We applaud the Argos team – and all law enforcement focused on child sexual abuse. Their work is essential for detecting and stopping offenders and finding child victims. However, there are also many efforts to prevent harm from occurring in the first place. 

Online child sexual abuse and exploitation (CSAE) is the world’s fastest-growing major crime, but like all abuse, it can often be prevented, and we do not have to wait for harm to occur before we act! 

The essential work of law and enforcement agencies, as depicted by the documentary, cannot be the only weapon to be used in this battle. We must take proactive actions to encourage people to seek help for their worrying thoughts, feelings and behaviours.  



2PS’s View on The Children in the Pictures  


The documentary provides a detailed insight into the investigative procedures surrounding child sexual exploitation. It illustrates the challenging nature of the authorities’ work, given the involvement of multiple countries with diverse legal jurisdictions.  

Projects like 2PS and other initiatives aim to run parallel to law enforcement efforts, reinforcing prevention against CSAE.  

Indeed, prevention is the focus of the 2PS project, whose goal is to protect children from child sexual abuse by acting at the roots: preventing crime and abuse before it occurs, and where a person has offended, the intention would remain the same: to prevent any future offending and further child victims 

To achieve this, it is of fundamental importance we ensure the availability of support and help for potential perpetrators to facilitate behavioural control and prevent them from offending. By opening doors and helping to support those who experience sexual thoughts of children and acknowledging the problem, we can work to prevent potential perpetrators acting on their thoughts. 



A Holistic Approach to Defeat CSAE


The fight against CSAE is complex and requires a complex response. 2PS aspires to assist a holistic, whole-system approach, both protecting victims and preventing harm by providing support and coping strategies to people who struggle with inappropriate sexual thoughts involving children. The right mental health support can make the difference and prevent children being abused and victimised.   

The Children in the Pictures significance lies in its emotional representation of the challenges faced by law enforcement in combatting online child sexual abuse. Beyond its investigative lens, it subtly communicates an indirect but crucial preventative position, underscoring the imperative message of ensuring children’s safety in the real world and digital spaces.

While lauding law enforcement efforts, the documentary implicitly raises questions about the escalating nature of the problem, prompting a much-needed conversation about the vital importance of prevention. 



Prevent and Protect Through Support


This invites us to delve into a nuanced discussion about primary and secondary prevention activities, encompassing existing programs and projects. A comprehensive prevention strategy allows for and requires the development of services and initiatives for victims and survivors. 

There is a compelling call to allocate increased resources for child protection efforts. Stressing the importance of sustained prevention underscores the need for ongoing commitment to safeguarding children from online exploitation and fostering a society that actively prioritises their well-being. 

The Children in the Pictures has brought to light the increasing challenges of combating online child sexual abuse and exploitation. The 2PS project aligns with the efforts by focusing on several complementary key aspects. These include holistic prevention approaches, victim support, offender rehabilitation, the gravity of online crimes, the lack of safety mechanisms, and support for the EU proposal and new legislation [1]. 



Other Challenges Raised by The Children in the Pictures


2PS stresses the need for online child safety mechanisms to protect all children from potential risks. In this regard, in May 2022, the European Commission adopted a legislative proposal [2] to prevent and combat child sexual abuse, making it mandatory for service providers to report online child sexual abuse on their platforms and to alert the authorities. These new rules aim to help EU countries detect and report online CSA, prevent it (including grooming) and support victims. 

2PS supports the above-mentioned legislative proposal and advocates for it, as well as for the removal of CSAM from online platforms.  



Raising awareness through 2PS project


To raise awareness about CSAE prevention, 2PS will implement several different actions.  


A webpage will be launched soon to collect 2PS’s perspectives and to highlight work on preventing child sexual abuse that complements a whole-system approach. The webpage will offer a repository of resources designed to raise awareness about sexual abuse. Moreover, it will promote the notion that the rehabilitation of people with a sexual interest in children is an important and effective prevention strategy. 


In the same space, 2PS wants to empower victims and survivors by amplifying their voices and wisdom through dedicated initiatives. 


Therefore, the webpage will collect actions, informative materials, articles, podcasts and ongoing research. The 2PS Consortium is working hard to contribute to the global fight against CSAE, and another key project output will be messaging and resources encouraging and motivating people concerned about their own indecent thoughts, feelings and behaviours to reach out and step to support. 


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