Last updated: August 19, 2019
Topic: FamilyChildren
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Thereexists a small but growing body of empirical data on the characteristics andexperiences of children depicted in CSAM/CSEM. Typically, these studies havebeen conducted by competent agencies charged with the management of CSAM/CSEM,and in the context of a very small number of police-academic collaborations,where researchers have been granted mediated access to these collections, andwhere the reported data was distilled from the materials proper and/or theirassociated case files.

Earlyanalyses of offender collections seized by law enforcement (e.g. Baartz, 2008;Carr, 2004) suggested that the preponderance of files in seized CSAM/CSEMcollections featured Caucasian girls of Westernised appearance.According toboth analyses Asian children comprised the second most common ethnic grouprepresented in the image collections. These trends were latterly borne out inthe findings of the first systematic study of a randomised selection of sexualimages retrieved from a UK police database (ChildBase). Here, Quayle and Jones(2011) determined that the odds of CSAM/CSEM featuring female versus malechildren were about 4 to 1, while the odds of an image featuring white childrenrather than non-White children were about 10 to 1.

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While White children dominatedthe sample, again Asian children featured second most commonly in the images,followed by Hispanic-Latino and black children. Furtherinformation on the profile of victims derives from analyses of cases wherechild victims have been identified from the imagery (e.g. NCMEC, 2017b; Seto etal., 2018).

Seto et al. (2018) performed an analysis of identified victimsnotified to NCMEC by U.S. law enforcement over a three-year period (July 1,2011 to June 30, 2014). Their dataset comprised 1,965 cases involving onevictim and one offender (one relationship) and 633 cases involving ‘multiplerelationships’ between victims and offenders. In the one relationship subgroup,victims were predominantly white (85%), pubescent (61%), female (76%) withnon-familial relationships (74%) with white (86%) male (98%) offenders. Interms of the relationships between victims and offenders, the review of the onerelationship subgroup established that most children (64%) were abused bysomeone known to them – either in their nuclear family (11%), extended family(16%) or a non-family member known to the child (37%).

Similarly, in themultiple relationship subgroup, victims were again prominently female (62%)with non-familial relationships (59%) to male (82%) offenders. The higherproportions of white girls depicted in CSAM/CSEM cases reported here isconsistent with other, recent studies of identified cases in otherjurisdictions. In their analysis of the characteristics of 687 cases ofidentified UK children Quayle, Svedin & Jonsson (2017F1 ) reported that approximatelytwo-thirds of children depicted in the cases were female and 93% were whiteF2 . Inso far as proportions of ‘self-generated’ or ‘youth produced’ sexual imageryhave been categorised in these national studies of identified CSAM/CSEM cases,all have supported the contention that this material has become more prevalentin identified CSAM/CSEM cases. NCMEC (2017b) reported that 9% of its 1,048identified CSAM/CSEM series featured ‘self-generated’ contentF3 .

However, it should be noted thatthese identified cases were limited to those series which had been ‘activelytraded’ online, and in many ‘youth produced’ CSAM/CSEM cases, the producedcontent were not widely distributed. Quayle, Svedin & Jonsson (2017)reported that 44.3% of identified UK cases were self-taken, with 34.

4% producedin a coercive and 9.9% in a non-coercive relationshipF4 . These authors reported that theprevalence of ‘self-taken’ imagery is not a recent phenomenon in identifiedcases in the UK.

Since 2010, the number of ‘self-taken’ images each year hasexceeded more than 40% of the total number of images in the UK (ICSE-connected)DatabaseF5 . Analysesof CSAM/CSEM have also attended to the abusive and exploitative experiences ofchildren depicted in the imagery. Perhaps the first comprehensive analysis ofthe severity of sexual victimisation depicted in online CSAM/CSEM was conductedby the staff of the COPINE at University College Cork, Ireland. In this seminalstudy, Taylor, Holland and Quayle (2001) attempted to identify the scope ofabusive and exploitative activity that was featured within CSAM/CSEM in orderto create an objective measure of the different levels of sexual victimizationwithin the images. The resulting 10-point ‘COPINE Scale’, latterly subjected toan assessment of reliability and construct validity by Merdian, Thakker, Wilsonand Boer (2013), identified that a broad spectrum of victimization was apparentwithin CSAM/CSEM.

Depicted victimisation ranged from Level 1 – ‘indicative’imagery, at the lowest end of the continuum (featuring non-sexual images ofchildren in swimming costumes, family albums or other licit settings where thecontext or the manner in which the picture was organized by the collectorindicates inappropriateness), through Level 6 – ‘Explicit Erotic Posing’, wherean explicit emphasis on the genital areas of a child was apparent, to Level 10– ‘Sadistic/Bestial’ at the extreme end of the continuum, where children weredepicted in an act of sexual torture or in a sexual act with an animal.Moreover,the severity of sexual victimisation has also been categorised with attentionto other paraphilias in the imagery. In this context, the depiction of other’problematic paraphilias’ (Hammond, Quayle, Kirakowski, O’Halloran, & Wynne, 2009) – themes of sexual deviance related to illegal or non-consensualactivity such as bestiality, coercive sex or necrophilia – are significant inthat they are aggravating factors in the child’s abusive or exploitativeexperience, and they provide important corollary information in the assessmentof the nature and severity of the child’s victimisation.

For example, in itsrecent analysis of the severity of sexual victimization depicted in activelytraded series, NCMEC (2017b) reported that 83% of its analysed series containedimages depicting close-up exposure of the child’s genitalia and/or anus, 60% ofthe series contained images depicting manual stimulation, 38% of the seriescontained images depicting oral copulation, and 48% of the series containedimages depicting anal and/or vaginal penetration. Other paraphilic themes alsofeatured prominently in the depicted abuse and exploitation of children, with8% of the series containing images depicting bondage and/or sadomasochism, 24%of the series depicting ejaculation, urination and/or defecation and 1% of theseries containing images depicting bestialityF6 .