Note: This article is intended primarily for psychotherapists. It contains very disturbing content. It is important that all readers have appropriate support should they decide to read it.
Children are being victimized at younger and younger ages within the production of increasingly sadistic child abuse materials, colloquially known as “hurtcore,” a burgeoning industry on the dark web.
We can expect that victims of this form of extreme abuse will increasingly find their ways to our therapy offices. Will we know enough about this form of abuse to recognize these cases as children? Will we understand enough about the nature of this abuse to adequately treat its victims?
Peter Scully and Daisy’s Destruction
On June 13, 2018, a Philippines court sentenced Australian businessman, Peter Scully, to life in prison for one count of human trafficking and five counts of rape by sexual assault of underage girls. He faces up to 60 more charges for torture, murder and abuse against children. (ABC Australia, June 13, 2018. Source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-06-14/australian-peter-scully-convicted-in-philippines/9868958).
According to The Daily Mail in the United Kingdom (March 13, 2015), Scully is alleged to have masterminded a lucrative international ring that offered pay-per-view live-stream video on the dark web of child rape, torture, and murder. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2993246/I-bigger-Ben-Hur-people-interested-Australian-businessman-accused-masterminding-international-paedophile-ring-girl-s-body-buried-home-shrugs-charges.html
Other sources, such as The Sun in the United Kingdom (June 14, 2018), report that Scully filmed the rape and torture of children for an international paedophile ring without describing him as the ring’s mastermind. https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/6525841/peter-scully-worlds-worst-paedophile-jail-baby-rape-dig-graves-philippines/
One of the most disturbing items alleged to have been produced by Scully and seized in the Philippines is a series of films entitled, Daisy’s Destruction, for which customers allegedly paid up to $10,000 to view.
The Australian (March 13, 2018) reports that the Daisy’s Destruction films include: a) a 5-year-old girl hung upside down while Scully and two accomplices raped and tortured her, b) two cousins, ages 9 and 12, forced to perform sex acts on each other, and, c) three children who were tortured, brutally raped, and made to appear murdered.
The three children appeared to be murdered were: a) “Daisy,” age 18 months, who was later found with severe physical injuries, b) “Cindy,” age 11 years, who is alleged to have later been strangled to death by Scully and found buried under a house he rented in Malaybalay, Bukidnon, in the Philippines, and, c) “Liza,” age 12 years, who was found alive.
The Daily Mail in the United Kingdom (June 1, 2015) reports that investigators claim that Daisy’s Destruction also showed a 13-year-old girl being forced to whip and torture a one-year-old baby and five-year-old girl. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3105437/I-asked-forgiveness-suffered-Mother-girl-8-drugged-raped-Australian-paedophile-speaks-s-revealed-BABIES-depraved-monster-s-victims.html
Note: Philippines Lifestyle News (September 12, 2016) names six co-defendants who were to be indicted with Scully: Liezyl Margallo, German national Christian Johann Rothe, Alexander Lao, Ma. Dorothea Chia, Haniel De Oliveira, and Marshal Ruskin (http://philippineslifestyle.com/pedophile-peter-scully-charged-69-counts/). I have not been able to find any news reports that follow up on these intended indictments.
What can we make of Scully’s convictions, his 60 additional charges, and the Daisy’s Destruction films, alleged to include child rape and torture, child victims being coerced to abuse each other, and the appearance of murder?
Is Scully an outlier? Or does the Scully case portend a much larger problem?
Press Coverage of the Scully Case and Dark Web Child Rape and Torture Materials
The mainstream media outside of Australia and the Philippines has provided very little coverage of the Scully case, including his conviction.
Generally, the mainstream media everywhere is failing to adequately cover the problem of distribution of child abuse materials (CAMs) on the dark web, of which the Scully case only scratches the surface. When the media covers it at all, it acknowledges that the customers are world-wide, but tends to attribute production to the third world. It rarely exposes the massive production in developed countries—the USA, Canada, and Europe.
Anti-trafficking organizations are also generally doing a poor job of addressing this problem. Their focus tends to be on sexual exploitation of children and women in economically disadvantaged countries, on trafficking of adolescent and adult women across borders, and on recruitment of runaway and other vulnerable teens and near-adolescents into pornography and prostitution on the streets and through social media.
An example of the media’s typical portrayal of this issue is a 2018 ten-part series of articles in the Indianapolis Star: “Exploited: Inside the World of Child Trafficking”, by investigative reporter Tim Swarens. His eighth article (February 22, 2018), “Animals Don’t Do to Their Offspring, What We as Humans Do to Our Children”, covers cyber-sex-trafficking of children: https://www.indystar.com/series/theexploited/
This eighth article by Swarens does justice to describing the magnitude of the problem, explains that consumers are everywhere including in the USA, and brings light to the disturbing fact that: “Children are being exploited at younger ages and the abuse is becoming more sadistic.” But, Swarens mistakenly attributes most production to the Philippines, giving those of us in North America and Europe a false and dangerous sense of security.
The Scope of the Problem
The production of child rape and torture materials is widespread in developed countries, including the USA.
In 2015, when Joseph Campbell was Assistant Director of the Investigation Division of the FBI, he said that child pornography and exploitation in the United States had reached unprecedented, near-epidemic levels and that: “The vast majority of the children trafficked in the U.S. are not Mexican or Central American, but are American.” (Washington Examiner, July 30, 2015).
Campbell’s assertion is backed by data gathered by INHOPE– The International Association of Internet Hotlines, a collaborative network of 48 hotlines in 43 countries dealing with illegal content online and committed to stamping out child sexual abuse. INHOPE found that the top internet hosting countries of child abuse materials in 2014 were the United States (37%), the Russian Federation (24%), the Netherlands (16%) and Canada (11%). By 2017, the USA had risen to hosting 43% of the world’s sites that host child abuse materials (the Russian Federation dropped to 7%).
INHOPE data confirms a rapid rate of growth. The number of unique URLs confirmed to contain child abuse materials was 33,821 in 2012; 48,910 in 2013; then 83,644 in 2014, a 70% increase in one year.
Sources of this data:
A review on the scope and nature of this problem is found in the book, Epidemic: America’s Trade in Child Rape, by Lori Handrahan, Ph.D. (2017, published by Trine Day).
The Nature of the Problem
The data indicates that the abuse depicted in seized child abuse materials is predominantly that of children who appear to be 10 years of age and younger and is often highly sadistic.
The 2017 Annual Report of the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) indicates, based on the abuse materials they retrieved, that, in 2014, 80% of the children appeared 10 or younger, dropping to 69% in 2015, then 53% in 2016, and 55% in 2017. Although this is a generally downward trend, the materials produced with victims 10 years of age and under are increasingly likely to depict rape and sexual torture, reaching a level of 44% in 2017.
The 2017 IWF indicates that 2% of the captured materials were of abuse of children zero to two years old in 2016 and 2017. See: https://www.iwf.org.uk/sites/default/files/reports/2018-04/IWF%202017%20Annual%20Report%20for%20web_0.pdf
Based on data such as that cited above and case reports from sources I deem to be credible, my understanding of this far-too-real nightmare is as follows.
Child rape and torture materials are being produced and consumed internationally at an alarming rate, predominantly in developed countries, by perpetrators acting alone and by criminal networks. Individuals film the rape and torture of their own and other children on personal computers and sell the video on the dark web, easily earning $1000/day. Organized crime networks abduct children in their own countries, traffic children from third-world traffickers and orphanages, imprison children in their facilities, rape and torture them on film and live-stream, prostitute them to high-paying customers, and in some cases, mutilate them, kill them in snuff films, and force girls who reach puberty to bear more children to be tortured.
Victims are being subjected to increasingly brutal torture as consumers become increasingly desensitized to less severe child abuse imagery and demand increasingly sadistic materials.
The abusers are adept at old school mafia-like terrorization such as threats to murder loved ones, stalking, and convincing victims that law enforcement is involved (whether actual or feigned).
The abusers are skilled at the psychological manipulation of the dissociative responses of their victims to their own ends, e.g., “You are B when you are here and you will be A again when you go home,” and so on.
Victims are coerced through torture to perpetrate abuse against other victims to make them believe themselves accomplices, to satisfy the sadistic tastes of the producers and consumers, and to manipulate further dissociative amnesia and dissociative compartmentalization (as in the formation of dissociated self-states) rooted in the inevitable intolerable guilt and self-hatred of having harmed another victim.
Law enforcement and organizations like Europol are not adequately funded or staffed to stay ahead of this international crime and face monumental jurisdiction-based and technological challenges. Consumers maintain anonymity on the dark web through privacy networks like The Onion Router (TOR). The wealthy producers use highly sophisticated encryption. Many of these technological challenges are detailed here in these two articles:
Schell, Martin, Hung, & Rueda (2007). “Cyber child pornography: A review paper of the social and legal issues and remedies—and a proposed technological solution”, Aggression and Violent Behavior, 12 (pp. 45-63).
Brown, (2015): “Investigating and prosecuting cyber crime: Forensic dependencies and barriers to justice,” International Journal of Cyber Criminology, 9 (1). https://www.cybercrimejournal.com/Brown2015vol9issue1.pdf
This article is also good, despite the English errors (it was written by an Indonesian professor):
Raharjo, A. (2017). “Cyber Child Pornography: Law and Technology Problems in Its Law Enforcement”. Advances in Social Science, Education and Humanities Research, volume 162, pp. 12-128. https://download.atlantis-press.com/article/25891437.pdf
Sidebar… or Is It?
In January, 2015, during the manhunt of Scully, but prior to his arrest on February 20, 2015, key evidence against Scully, including computer logs and videos, was destroyed in a fire in the evidence room at the Cagayan de Oro City Hall in the Philippines. (Mindanao Gold Star Daily: http://mindanaogoldstardaily.com/evidence-vs-peter-scully-gone-due-to-january-fire/)
Scully’s former “girlfriend” and co-accused, former “prostitute,” Liezyl Margallo, was arrested at age 23 on January 25, 2017. She is alleged to have recruited child victims for Scully’s operation and torturing them on film. https://www.dailystar.co.uk/news/latest-news/582501/Paedophile-ring-Phillipines-Liezyl-Margallo-Peter-Gerard-Scully-Interpol-Trafficking-Crime
Note: I cannot find very much information on Margallo. I believe it is reasonable to question if she began as a child victim of Scully and whether Scully coerced and entrapped her into perpetrating against other victims and colluding with him.
Between their two arrests, Scully and Margallo are alleged to have maintained contact, possibly continuing to orchestrate Scully’s cyber-pornography trade from prison, despite bans on prisoners having telephones, computers, or other electronic devices. See:
The Sydney Morning Herald, January 31, 2017: https://www.smh.com.au/world/alleged-child-abuser-peter-scully-may-still-be-masterminding-porn-network-20170131-gu25sw.html, and,
Cebu Daily News, January 26, 2017: http://cebudailynews.inquirer.net/120658/savage-girl-falls
The New Zealand Herald, February 12, 2017: https://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/news/article.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=11799226
The Sydney Morning Herald: https://www.smh.com.au/world/child-sex-predator-peter-scully-dealt-legal-blow-as-police-apprehend-key-witness-20170128-gu0ikg.html
Is the fire a coincidence? Is the communication access from jail a mere glitch? Or does foul play explain the evidence-destroying fire? Did Scully pay off and/or threaten jail officials in order to be granted access to communicate with Margalo?
How much money does Peter Scully have? The people of the Australia footed the bill for his legal defense under the Serious Overseas Criminal Matters Scheme and are not happy about it.
See: The Australian, March 12, 2018: https://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/our-500000-bill-for-accused-pedophile-peter-scully/news-story/0594a96ed7a8e907ac838005c793c2c9
How powerful, how insulated, are criminals who produce and distribute child rape and torture materials?
The Compulsive Nature of Producers and Consumers of Sadistic Child Abuse Materials
In 2015, 60 Minutes Australia aired an interview of Scully by television journalist Tara Brown. Here is a snippet at minute 1:48 from the full show posted here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5kPKxwCakQg
TB: So, when you were on the run, how great was the urge?
PS: Urge for what?
TB: To find young girls?
PS: Have you ever had that urge? It’s not like a hungry dog that’s got to feed every three hours or four hours. It’s not like that. Ummm. And it’s really not (pause) it’s almost not an urge (pause)
TB: Why do it?
PS: Yeah. Good question. Yeah. Yeah.
I am sure I am not alone in noticing that Scully offered no explanation for his behavior except to deny being “like a hungry dog that’s got to feed…” Does the nature of his denial betray the truth?
Recognition and Treatment: A Few Pointers for Psychotherapists
In addition to symptoms typically seen in victims of other extreme abuse, the following symptoms may be more severe in victims used in production of child rape and torture materials (this is a cursory and incomplete list):
- Suicidality and self-harm rooted in deep moral injury consequent to coerced perpetration, possible ongoing abuse and threats from abusers, and shame associated with the abuse imagery circulating indefinitely
- Personality systems with many hundred self-states
- Extreme vigilance, self-concealment, fear of cameras
- Nihilism, interest to very dark art, music, poetry (a final breaking point after loss of all self-agency)
- Pain, inflammation, nausea, vomiting, encopresis, enuresis, and physical injuries, including genital, rectal, bone fractures, and dental anomalies, that may be mistaken as accidental or self-harm
- Aversion to food, based in forced ingestion of noxious substances
- Fatigue in child victims
We can expect that in the next decade, more of these victims will show up in our therapy offices. We can expect that they will be absolutely terrified to consciously know the abuse they have endured and to disclose it to us. If we are fortunate, we will recognize some of the child victims in time to engage protective adults to prevent further abuse.
In my experience, a deep understanding of the nature of this abuse is critical to being fully present as its victims express their sorrow, terror, and devastating moral injury. We need to understand the “breaks” in self-agency that occur under torture-coerced perpetration:
1. Outward resistance is short-lived (minutes) because it is intensely punished.
2. Next comes outer compliance and inner resistance.
3. Quickly (within a few hours), all volition is lost; the victim complies robotically like a hammer in the perpetrators’ hands.
4. Finally, the victim engages in sadistic violence to release rage, defend against helplessness, and/or “snaps” into animalistic predator-prey reactions. On the latter, see: Victor Nell (2007). “Cruelty’s Rewards: The gratifications of perpetrators and spectators”. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 29, pp. 211-257.
5. In some cases, self-states may form who make victimization and even perpetration an affectively-positive experience, “fun,” and in this way spare the self the terror, physical and emotional pain, helplessness, heartbreak, and rage, they would otherwise experience.
Numerous self-states will have been involved in each of these “breaks” and all need to be engaged in the therapy process. As each devastating piece is processed, it is helpful to “talk through” to other deeply submerged self-states who were likely similarly tortured and who may believe themselves to be unworthy of love, who believe themselves to be perpetrators, etc.
I address the nature of coerced perpetration, the breaks in self-agency under torture, and work to help victims overcome the consequent moral injury here on my website: http://endritualabuse.org/coerced-under-torture/
We can also help our clients and other victims by sharing our knowledge of this abuse with our colleagues and the public. A simple internet blog that acknowledges the existence of this kind of abuse and the blamelessness of the victims can be enough to help victims feel confident enough to seek therapy and may even save some lives.