News & Media > Editorials > As a survivor, I want reform for both child and animal sexual abuse prevention policies - Emma Håkansson

As a survivor, I want reform for both child and animal sexual abuse prevention policies - Emma Håkansson

By Emma Håkansson
Sat 6 April 2024, 2:28pm

As a survivor, I want reform for both child and animal sexual abuse prevention policies. 

A few weeks ago, as a survivor of child sexual abuse I launched a call for reform to the Working With Children Check, designed to prevent further abuse. That part of my week was very public. 

Quietly at home, I was addressing another form of sexual abuse. I watched whistleblower footage of a mother pig being raped by a farmer. My animal advocate friends had been reviewing their hidden camera footage, intended to capture legal cruelty to pigs, and they had found this instead. 

My advocacy for the protection and liberation of children and animals don’t usually intersect. But I have always seen them as rooted in the same concept. 

No one should be denied their autonomy. No one should be considered so worthless that their violation and objectification for someone else’s gain is accepted. Abuse of power and exploitation of the vulnerable is always unacceptable. The specifics of ‘who’ the vulnerable is doesn’t matter to me. 

When I was first sexually abused by an adult I was told to trust, obey and respect, I was nine. I froze and I dissociated. 

Thinking about it makes my ribcage feel wrenched tighter around my heart. 

I had that same feeling watching this pig. He steps towards her and then penetrates her. Unlike me, she doesn’t freeze. She tries meekly to flee, but she is confined to the metal bars and concrete floor of the farrowing crate the industry keeps her in. And so then she too, just freezes. 

There are differences between humans and other animals. There are differences between these two crimes. I’m not so interested in them. I am interested in ensuring neither have a future, and towards that, I want to talk about their similarities. 

Usually, both crimes of child sexual abuse and bestiality (which I’ll refer to as animal sexual abuse) are perpetrated under a shroud of secrecy. 

No one knew what was happening to me behind sound-proofed doors, isolated with the adult who had a Working With Children Check. 

No one knew what was happening on this Victorian pig factory farm, one designed to make edible meat of individuals. 

Now, both are in the public eye. My abuse, because I have shared it. The pigs, because of the critical work of whistleblowers. 

But most of the time, sexual abuse is hidden. The average time between a child being sexually abused and a disclosure is 23.9 years. I’m 24. Despite calls for legally mandated, independently reviewed CCTV in factory farms and slaughterhouses, no such measure to prevent illegal abuse against animals exists. 

In fact, only rape is considered illegal sexual abuse of animals. Digital (finger-based) sexual penetration of animals is not, and so the first part of the depraved abuse against this mother pig was not either. 

My vocal cords would be worn to silence before I could list all of the reform I want to see for children and animals. 

But right now, a few things are clear. 

One. So long as adults working with children are not required to undergo any mandatory child abuse prevention education, children will be at risk. If other working adults around me and the perpetrator of my abuse had known the prevalence of grooming and abuse, signs of it that bled into my behaviour, as well as the perpetrators behaviour, and how to intervene and respond, I could have been safer sooner. And yet right now, mandatory education and a passed test is required to serve alcohol to adults, but not to be trusted with our children. Changing that is the very least the Government can do to protect children. 

Two. Mandated, independently monitored CCTV in factory farms and slaughterhouses is essential for the prevention of all forms of illegal animal abuse. Mandated CCTV exists in England, Scotland, Spain, and other countries. 

Three. All forms of sexual abuse against animals, as well as the possession and distribution of such sexual abuse content should be illegal. That’s something Georgie Purcell MP of the Animal Justice Party has called for. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, we also know that across Australia, in most cases where someone has been found to keep and watch animal sexual abuse for sexual purposes, they are also watching child sexual exploitation material for the same reason. 

While writing this, I considered how my doing so could negatively impact my reform efforts for children. I’ve decided that it absolutely shouldn’t, and so I won’t let it. 

I will always speak against sexual abuse, and all abuse of power against individuals denied their autonomy. 

I will always fight for those most vulnerable to be safer. 

No matter who they are. 

I hope the Government will too.

Emma Håkansson

Emma Håkansson is the founder and director of Willow Creative Co, a content creation and ethics consultancy agency working to make fashion kinder. Emma is a globally published writer, and has created campaigns for animal rights groups both exposing violence against animals and encouraging more compassionate choices.

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