Have you ever been almost kidnapped?

The number is monstrous: 87,000 people exchange child pornographic material on an Internet platform. They send each other videos and photos showing children being abused, including many babies. They agree to sexual violence against children, they agree on the time, place and age of the victims. 87,000 people around the world had come together on a platform and also gave it the name "Elysium". The fact that investigators have now been able to switch off this network after months of investigations is only possible because they are taking paths that are sometimes controversial, sometimes difficult to endure, but which are still necessary.

The expression Darknet, in other words, the dark network, does not fit better anywhere. From this hidden part of the World Wide Web, the investigators unearth the unbelievable. Child pornography is not easy to find using search engines; highly specialized experts are required for this. In Giessen there has been a central office for combating cybercrime (ZIT) for seven years. It is based at the Frankfurt Public Prosecutor's Office and is the first address for the Federal Criminal Police Office, even when it comes to investigations into child pornography.

Almost all children whose pictures the investigators show are found

You don't like to imagine what the investigators see on their screens in darkened rooms and how they themselves process it internally. However, they still have to raise public awareness of their methods - for example for the so-called school manhunt, which they invented: If the search for the perpetrators is unsuccessful, the investigators take the opposite route. They are looking for the victims. They cut out portraits of the children from abuse videos. Officials then regularly show these pictures to teachers all over Germany. Does any of these kids happen to be sitting in your classroom? Everything is done in confidence. Almost all children whose pictures the investigators show are found. Despite this success and although no acts of abuse can be seen in the pictures, teachers always react uncomfortably touched and do not want to participate.

A research project at the University of Regensburg had a similar experience a few years ago. The researchers actually wanted to ask schoolchildren across Germany about abuse, sometimes very directly: "Has anyone ever urged you to put their penis in their mouth?" - "Have you ever been forced to have sex for money by another person?" The education ministers of Bavaria, Saxony, Baden-Württemberg and Thuringia found the questions too sensitive and stopped the action at their schools. In the end, however, the study produced a result: eight out of 100 Germans between the ages of 18 and 30 state that they are or have been victims of sexual abuse, even in childhood.

Society opens up to the issue of child abuse

Facing child abuse face to face is tough - but necessary. It can be assumed that child pornography networks will be exposed more frequently. This makes the growing technical finesse of the investigators possible, but also the recently passed law on the monitoring of messenger services on smartphones, as controversial as it is. Investigators can use it to search computers online more easily, even if they suspect the distribution of child pornography.

For some time now, crime statistics have shown more reports of child abuse and child abuse. As strange as it sounds, that's a good sign. Because it shows that society is opening up to the issue of child abuse, that sensitivity is growing. People no longer just watch and let it happen. You go to the police. You at least brighten the dark field with it.