Reports of child exploitation involving Australian victims or offenders have doubled to 18,000 in the last year, according to AFP Assistant Commissioner Debbie Platz. Authorities say they are aware of more perpetrators than they’re able to arrest. As Christians, how can we understand and respond to this terrible trend?
Charles Newington, National Director of Family Voice Australia, says the gravity of the child exploitation problem is escalating. Talking to Neil Johnson on Vision’s 20Twenty program, he explained that most of the images and videos featuring exploited children are spread via the dark web, a kind of underground internet which can only be accessed by specific software or decryption.
Newington says it isn’t difficult to get into the dark web, but it is hard to get out of it. In the coming years, new 5G technology will provide internet access to more than a billion people who currently aren’t online. We tend to think that pornography has found its place in society, and most people dabble a little without getting addicted.
But many people who aren’t used to the internet may be especially vulnerable to the temptations and traps of the dark web. “Just imagine its shock capacity. One day, you’re just conducting your normal life, and then all of a sudden, you can see violent sexual imagery. The shock of it, and the addictive, voyeuristic quality of it, the way in which you hate what you’re looking at but you keep wanting to look at more… For millions of people, that’s round the corner.”
As the demand for these images and videos increases, their violence is also increasing. Newington thinks our regulators will find it extremely difficult to mitigate the harms that will come with the positive impacts of these new technologies. “We’re talking about a kind of deep change in the spiritual and psychological tone of our global culture,” he said.
So how can our churches minister to a public that is being affected by some of this material? “I’ve been involved in church life for many years,” Newington said, “and I see, recognise and understand why local churches want to keep church life clean, and sane, and moderate, and comfortable. The world is difficult enough, and so all the instinct is to make it as comfortable and homely and family friendly as possible.”
“But the world in which the Church now lives is a world that is not innocent. And so the people that really need the Lord, these people have often got very deep and disturbing personal stories. And the Church needs to be flexible and find new ways of helping people make the journey out of the dark web, as it were, in which they’ve become entangled.”
“It’s not just the regulators that are being outrun by the pace of criminality, or the wickedness of mankind. The Church is also being outrun, because who’s ready for this? And so that’s my thinking, that this is the way that we walk, and thankfully, our God, and his grace, and the power of the Holy Spirit is sufficient for this. It’s for us to learn how to function and operate in a new, dark world.”
In his conversation with Neil Johnson, Newington also talked about the hypocrisy of Westpac, which has just been accused of failing to report more than 19 million illegal transactions, many of which would have helped fund child trafficking and exploitation. For that and more, listen to the audio below.
Tune into 20Twenty and join the conversation with Neil Johnson, weekdays on Vision Christian Radio. Click here for your local times and more interviews.