Australian Federal Police this week busted a paedophile ring, seizing images of child sexual abuse including rape, bondage and torture. Watching the AFP spokesman at the press conference held to announce the seizures, I couldn’t help but wonder, how do they do it?
How do the men and women of the AFP deal with viewing images that are any reasonable person’s worst nightmare, as part of their daily routine?
I’ve experienced a fair bit of secondary post traumatic stress as a consequence of working with adult survivors of child sexual abuse. You have to be able to go there, you don’t flinch, you don’t turn away, you’re the listener who shares the journey. Looking into the dark side takes its toll: it’s powerful, it’s scary, and you underestimate it at your peril.
I’ve never had to look at anything like the horrors the AFP uncover. How do they feel when they go home at night, their minds crowded with images of rape and torture of the young? How do they manage to have any faith in human nature, after seeing first hand what human beings are capable of?
The Internet offers the ideal environment for paedophiles to connect with each other and engage in their vile commerce. Keeping pace with their proliferation must in itself be a challenging task.
Many of us would find it impossible to view images child pornographers disseminate, especially those at the far end of the continuum. Even thinking about what they might look like makes my gut churn in protest. It takes a certain type of courage and a rare kind of determination to commit your working life to bringing these people down.
It isn’t a job that brings them glory, and mostly we never see their faces.
For my money, if anyone deserves the term unsung heroes it’s these women and men. I think we should all honour them for their willingness to descend into the abyss and fight the monsters that dwell down there. If anyone renews my faith in human nature, it’s people who’ll face down the dark side in the interests of us all, and particularly in the interests of the most innocent and the most vulnerable among us.
So this post is dedicated to the men and women of the AFP who take on this battle. I salute you.