Providing Wellness Support for Online Child Exploitation Personnel: An Interview with Duane Bowers

Viewing images of child exploitation is nothing short of disturbing.

But what if it was your job to find and remove images of children being harmed…. all day. Every day…? What kind of toll does that take on the individual… and what can organizations do to support these individuals who work on the front lines, helping to protect victims of unspeakable acts?


Join us for this recorded webinar, when Duane Bowers returns to discuss:

  • the Internet Service Providers’ (ISP) responsibility when child exploitation material is discovered on their site.
  • the role the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children plays in preparing this material for law enforcement.
  • the needs of the staff of these agencies in providing these services.
  • the supports that can be provided for the staff of these agencies.
Justice Clearinghouse Editors (JCH): Your webinar is specifically about supporting the justice professionals who see unspeakable images involving children.  Without giving away the whole webinar, why is supporting these individuals so important? 

Duane Bowers: First, the viewing of images, still or video, of child sexual abuse is considered secondary trauma. Secondary trauma is defined as being exposed to the trauma experienced by others (verbally, in images or in writing) and having the same traumatic response as the one who directly experienced it. Second, viewing these images, reading or hearing these accounts qualifies as the exposure criteria for a diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Specifically, it is being repeatedly exposed to the aversive details of a trauma. So, no matter how you look at being exposed to this material, the result is a traumatic response.

Most often, the traumatic response is cumulative; the symptoms begin as annoyances and become more intense over time until one becomes fully traumatized. In the webinar, we will talk about these symptoms, how to determine if they are increasing in intensity, and what to do about them.



I am mesmerized by the human will and strength.

While I may pride myself in providing support to those experiencing trauma,

the truth is I just suggest the tools.

The real work is done by the individual, and given the right tools,

their strength and will to survive is awesome to observe and experience.



JCH: Knowing that you’re not speaking to mental health professionals, what does “support” mean? What can that support look like? Why is so important for this unique situation?

Duane: Support is a word which is used specifically for this type of situation becausework on computer it can be stretched to cover whatever intervention is appropriate. For example, folks who view this material just long enough to see that it meets the definition of child pornography, and move on may benefit from support that has a wellness perspective focusing on the physical symptoms, and the physical activities that will mitigate those symptoms. Support can also mean full-scale counseling for a worker who is also a mother and who becomes incapable of looking at material the same age as her child. Support can be a physical, mental, emotional and/or even spiritual intervention to reduce and mitigate the effects of the traumatic response.


JCH: You’ve presented a number of times about supporting the mental health and wellness of justice professionals here at Justice Clearinghouse. The work that you do is important, but must be challenging at times. What drew you to this work and helping those in the justice profession? What keeps you motivated or inspired to keep doing this work?

Duane: I will answer this based on my perspective, and experience – I have no research to back it up.

From my observation, I have found that the vast majority of people who work with other people experiencing trauma have had their own experience with trauma. I sense that there is a conscious decision at some point that we, who have been there, are motivated to work with others in a traumatic situation, to provide what we may or may not have had in ours. Research has shown that helping others reduces the symptoms of traumatic response. Perhaps we do it not so much to help our own recovery, but to reinforce to ourselves that one can recover from trauma. Then, as we learn the ‘science and procedure’ of trauma, our personal motive is less evident.

In my own case, the ‘who’ I help was more a function of opportunity. While I was drawn to working with folks in trauma and had an understanding based on experience, the fact that I work with trafficking, exploitation, and supporting those who directly support these victims came from opportunities that crossed my path. I did not set out to work in this area, but I also did not resist as I am working with trauma.

What keeps me working in the field of trauma is easy – I am mesmerized by the human will and strength. While I may pride myself in providing support to those experiencing trauma, the truth is I just suggest the tools. The real work is done by the individual, and given the right tools, their strength and will to survive is awesome to observe and experience. I am driven to support as many people as I can to unleash their will and strength to recover from their trauma.



JCH: A large number of our readers and subscribers are in law enforcement, but we have representation from all parts of the justice arena. Can you share some specifics of what different types of justice professionals or first responders will gain by attending your webinar? What skills or new knowledge will they gain that they can immediately use the next day on the job?

Duane: The answer to this builds on the answer to the first question. Anyone working with the trauma of others is experiencing, to some degree, a traumatic response. In the webinar, they will see how the chemistry of their body responds to the work. This chemical reaction affects how their brain works, affecting how they think, feel and behave. Over time, these changes affect relationships, well-being, and health. This chemical reaction happens to every human being exposed to trauma.

The good news is that every human being has the ability to intervene in this process and stop the long-term effects. This seminar will look at the folks working in the field of child sexual exploitation, in their variety of roles and capacities, and identify symptoms as well as the measures to mitigate those symptoms. The results of many of these measures are immediate, obvious and can be implemented now.


Click Here to Watch “Providing Wellness Support for Online Child Exploitation Personnel: From Website to Arrest.”




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