While the internet is vital in our lives, it also has a dark side: images and films of child sexual abuse are more frequent and simpler to find than ever before.
Why is it referred to as child sexual abuse material rather than child pornography?
While the phrase "child pornography" is still extensively used by the public, it’s really just evidence of child sexual abuse. As a result, a lot of organizations have abandoned the term "child pornography" in favor of CSAM - child sexual abuse materials.
While some pornography on the internet displays people who have agreed to be filmed, this is never the case when photos depict minors. Children cannot legally consent to sex, and they cannot legally consent to having photos of their abuse filmed and circulated. Every explicit photo or video of a youngster is proof that the child has been sexually abused.
How is child sexual abuse content spread on the internet?
Child sexual abuse material, or CSAM, is freely available on the internet. In 2021 alone, internet platforms reported more than 29 million notifications of suspected child sexual exploitation to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children's CyberTipline, and that figure is climbing. CSAM photos and videos were included in 84.9 million of the 29 million reports.
Who develops and disseminates CSAM?
According to studies, the majority of persons who possess and distribute CSAM also perform hands-on sexual assaults against minors. The majority of the time, the abuser is someone the child knows and trusts. Grooming tactics are frequently used by offenders to normalize sexual contact and foster secrecy.
According to the US Sentencing Commission, almost 60% of perpetrators in fiscal year 2019 were related to or had a position of trust over the minor victim (which includes family members as well as teachers, coaches and others connected to the child). There was more than one minor victim in around four out of ten incidents, ranging from two to 440 minors.
Where gender could be determined, approximately 93% of offenders were male and 7% were female.
Who exactly are the victims?
According to an ECPAT study:
Prepubescent youngsters made up 56.2% of the cases depicted.
There were 25.4% pubescent children.
4.3% of the children were very young (infants and toddlers).
14.1% of the cases involved children of various ages.
The abuse was more likely to be severe when the victim was younger.
There was severe abuse in 84.2% of the videos and photos.
The United States now has more child sexual abuse content than any other country.
In 2021, the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) discovered 252,194 URLs containing or advertising CSAM, a 64% increase over 2020.
Furthermore, due to the large number of leads received, US law enforcement organizations are only able to investigate a small percentage of CSAM cases. “ [ "With the enormous increase in CSAM trafficking online, it is critical that law enforcement authorities, such as Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Forces, be able to identify and apprehend dangerous criminals and rescue abused children.
What consequences do child sexual abuse materials have on survivors?
Children in CSAM are victimized twice: once by the perpetrator of the sexual assault and again by others who watch it.
Victims of CSAM frequently express the following feelings:
Shame, guilt, and blame. Survivors may feel guilty for failing to halt the abuse, or they may even blame themselves if they received physical pleasure.
Relationships and intimacy. It's probable that your earliest sexual encounters were the result of sexual abuse. Intimacy might be difficult to achieve as an adult. Even when sexual activity is consensual and on their own terms, some survivors endure flashbacks or terrible recollections.
Self-esteem. Survivors may experience low self-esteem as a result of negative signals from the abuser(s) and having their personal safety violated or neglected. Low self-esteem can have an impact on many aspects of a survivor's life, including relationships, professions, and even overall health.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It is common for survivors of sexual violence to feel anxious, stressed, or afraid. If these sensations grow severe, linger for more than a few weeks, or interfere with daily life, they may be symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Abuse of drugs and alcohol. It is possible for survivors to grow up and become dependent on alcohol and other substances to cope, which can begin in early adolescence and last throughout adulthood.
Obesity and eating disorders are problems. Food indulgence and/or food restriction are common among survivors of child sexual abuse. Obesity and heart disease are two of the health consequences.
Problems with sexual conduct and oversexualized behavior. Sexual abuse can alter survivors' perceptions of their bodies and feelings of control in a variety of ways. Anorexia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and bulimia nervosa are the three main kinds of eating disorders. Disordered eating that does not fit into one of these categories but is nevertheless dangerous is also possible.
Depression. Negative feelings that last for a long time may be an indication of depression. Depression is not a sign of weakness, and it should not be expected to "snap out of."
Early warning indicators for youngsters. Physical, behavioral, and emotional indicators may all be present. When looking for indications of child sexual abuse, the most important thing to remember is to check for unexpected changes in behavior. Trust your instincts and don't disregard your feelings if something doesn't feel right. Listen if a child tells you that someone makes them uncomfortable, even if they can't tell you why.
How can we keep both children and adults secure online?
It's natural for parents to be unsure of how to control their children's usage of technology in an age when even toddlers can use a smartphone. Here are some suggestions to keep your children safe online.
Keep your identity safe. Avoid revealing personally identifiable information about yourself or loved ones on social media or online forums. This can attract unwelcome attention and harassment.
Please report any objectionable images. Report improper or pornographic photos received or viewed through text message or online to police or CyberTipline. This can assist law enforcement in apprehending an offender in the act.
Make use of a safe Internet connection. When looking for help for a sexual assault online, be sure you're choosing a safe and respected provider.
Take note of your privacy settings. When using social media, check your privacy settings, such as location services and contact information. Be careful that making data public means that anyone can access it.
Talk to your children. Understand online privacy settings and assist your youngster in creating social media profiles. Creating a foundation for open communication can inspire your youngster to provide information about strange online discussions or behaviors in the future.
Where can I receive help and report child sexual abuse material?
Report CSAM to the CyberTipline online or by phone at 1-800-843-5678. Your report will be investigated by a law enforcement agency.
Call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673) or chat online to speak with a certified support specialist.
Dial800.4.A.CHILD to reach the National Child Abuse Hotline (422-4453).