It takes a village: law reform can’t be the only response to online child abuse material

By Marg Liddell and Anastasia Powell

The Victorian government introduced legislation this week to deliver on key changes recommended by an in-depth review of the state’s sexual offences.

Among the changes is the replacement of the term “child pornography” with “child abuse material”. This shift in terminology is particularly welcome.

What’s in a name?

It might appear a small change to some. But naming this material to clearly identify the abuse it depicts is important.

Rather than the minimising term “child pornography”, calling these images “child abuse material” makes clear that the images involve child abuse, and that consumers of these images are colluding in child abuse.

However, this shift is not merely semantic. The new laws also extend the definition of child abuse material to include images involving other forms of abuse, regardless of whether or not the image is “sexual”.

This is an important change that brings Victoria into line with several jurisdictions, such as New South Wales, that include depictions of a child as a victim of torture, cruelty or physical abuse in their criminal laws.

New forms of sexual exploitation and abuse

The changes will also bring Victoria’s laws up to date with new forms of exploitation and abuse of children and young people that are associated with communications technologies.

Read the full article on The Conversation, or download the RMIT research report into women’s experiences when they learn a partner or family member is involved in child abuse material