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Report on personal impacts of public advocacy by survivors of CSAM released by C3P

For Immediate Release

Findings from a new report commissioned by the Canadian Centre for Child Protection (C3P) released today explore the experiences of survivors of child sexual abuse material (CSAM) who have come together to publicly advocate for social and policy change to protect children and other survivors.

Researchers, Prof. Michael Salter and Dr. Delanie Woodlock of the University of New South Wales (UNSW, Sydney), interviewed nine members of two survivor advocacy groups about their activist journeys for the report Step Forward. Take a Chance. You’re Not Alone. Reflections from the Phoenix 11 and Chicago Males on their experiences as public advocates for survivors of child sexual abuse material.

All survivors interviewed identified that engaging in public, collective advocacy had life-changing effects on them, including increased self-esteem, confidence, and quality of life.

One survivor said, “we have found a strength that we didn’t have before. Just in the safety of our community, knowing that we have it, even if we’re not talking every day, just knowing that it’s there. It’s something we can carry with us in difficult situations in life and we can love ourselves better because we know how loved we are. We have a strength to draw from that we didn’t have before.”

This is the first known report to research how participating in advocacy impacts CSAM survivors. "It was truly inspirational to hear directly from these two groups of survivors about their advocacy journeys,” said Prof. Salter. “Their contributions to public debate and understanding have been invaluable, and this report explores the personal growth and insights that have come from their activism.” Dr. Woodlock said, “The experiences of the Phoenix 11 and Chicago Males serve as a powerful reminder that activism can play a crucial role in the healing process for survivors.”

The Phoenix 11, a group of young women, came together in 2018 as the first-ever group of CSAM survivors; the Chicago Males met in 2020 prior to the pandemic.

“We did not know what to expect when we first brought these groups together, and we have been learning with them along this journey,” said Lianna McDonald, Executive Director of C3P. “Survivors had been silenced for so long, and we knew that the world needed to hear their voices to really start to understand how this horrific crime impacted victims. We could not have anticipated the way their ability to participate in advocacy – to fight for change for themselves and for children – has been life-changing. It’s been a privilege to witness.”

This report is accompanied by a companion guide, Working with survivors of child sexual abuse material: Five principles for professionals, which shares reflections from 12 professionals based on their experience working with CSAM survivors, including law enforcement officers, lawyers, and mental health workers.

From a member of the Phoenix 11: “When I originally started, I was super excited to fight for other kids, future victims and survivors. But it’s more so in the past couple of years… where I kind of evolved to a point where I’m actually fighting for myself and that little girl in me that was so badly disrespected, and who has been silent.”

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About the Phoenix 11: The Phoenix 11 is a group of survivors whose child sexual abuse was recorded, and in the majority of cases, distributed online. This group has banded together as a powerful force to challenge the inadequate responses to the prevalence of child sexual abuse images online.

About the Chicago Males: In 2020, C3P brought together a group of male survivors to learn about their experiences and better understand the unique social stigma males face around sexual abuse. This group has advocated for much-needed change in addressing online child sexual abuse and supporting survivors.

About Prof. Michael Salter and Dr. Delanie Woodlock: This research report was written by Prof. Michael Salter and Dr. Delanie Woodlock from the University of New South Wales (UNSW Sydney) on behalf of the Canadian Centre for Child Protection Inc. UNSW Sydney, is a public research university based in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. Established in 1949, UNSW Sydney is one of the founding members of the Group of Eight, a coalition of Australian research-intensive universities. For more information visit Prof. Salter is the Scientia Associate Professor of Criminology at the School of Social Sciences at UNSW and an expert in child sexual exploitation and gendered violence. He applies critical and feminist theory to the study of complex trauma, with a focus on intersections with technology. Dr. Woodlock is a feminist researcher with a focus on understanding and preventing men's violence against women and children. Her work particularly examines the critical role of technology in domestic violence and child sexual abuse.

About the Canadian Centre for Child Protection: The Canadian Centre for Child Protection (C3P) is a national charity dedicated to the personal safety of all children. The organization’s goal is to reduce the sexual abuse and exploitation of children through programs, services, and resources for Canadian families, educators, child serving organizations, law enforcement, and other parties. C3P also operates, Canada’s national tipline to report child sexual abuse and exploitation on the internet, and Project Arachnid, a web platform designed to detect known images of CSAM on the clear and dark web and issue removal notices to industry.

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