Bringing online child abuse material into the family home: the intersection between online child abuse material and family violence

Dr Marg Liddell1, Ms Natalie Walker1
1Rmit University, Melbourne, Australia, 2PartnerSPEAK, Melbourne, Australia

Over recent years knowledge about the impact of online child abuse offences on women and children in Australia has grown enormously.  Factors promoting this increased knowledge include research commissioned by PartnerSPEAK (an online forum supporting women and children affected by this offending); increasing numbers of people engaging with PartnerSPEAK’s online forum; public speaking by PartnerSPEAK representatives, and media interest.  Understanding the intersection between this offending and family violence has also emerged.  This paper explores this relationship using evidence from PartnerSPEAK’s qualitative research and examination of data from 600 posts that were submitted to the PartnerSPEAK on-line forum.  What has emerged is that use of online child abuse material may bring violence to family members many ways. Sometimes this is seen in overt behaviour and sometimes in covert behaviour.  Additionally, the power over and the objectification of women and children; the dehumanising behaviour and the sense of entitlement expressed by online child abuse offenders are dynamics common to family violence perpetrators.  The cycle of abuse includes psychological, economic and sometimes sexual violence towards the partner and children.  Many consequences for partner victim/survivors are similar: trauma, the victim is disbelieved or blamed not just by the offender but by those expected to help; and housing and custody issues. A resulting concern is to ensure that the impact of this violence and abuse is not ignored and victims do not suffer the same lack of program response that occurred with child sexual abuse as well as family violence in recent decades.


Marg Liddell PhD is a senior lecturer at RMIT University and is the Chair of PartnerSPEAK Committee of Management.  Marg has over 25 years research and evaluation experience in qualitative and quantitative research in child protection; issues facing young people in the juvenile justice system; women and justice and the Inside Out Prison Exchange program. Qualitative research with vulnerable women titled “Women’s experiences of learning about the involvement of a partner possessing child abuse material in Australia” was completed in 2015 for PartnerSPEAK. More recent research 2016 to 2018 relates to the role money plays in family violence.

Natalie Walker is the founder and CEO of PartnerSPEAK, an online and face to face organisation that works with people who have suffered from a relative’s use of online child abuse material. PartnerSPEAK was funded in 2017 by the Victorian state government and now provides Intentional Peer support to people affected by a partner or family members online child abuse offending.  Natalie received a Churchill Fellowship in 2017 and will study the application of International Peer Support internationally.


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