There
exists a small but growing body of empirical data on the characteristics and
experiences of children depicted in CSAM/CSEM. Typically, these studies have
been 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, and
where the reported data was distilled from the materials proper and/or their
associated case files.

Early
analyses of offender collections seized by law enforcement (e.g. Baartz, 2008;
Carr, 2004) suggested that the preponderance of files in seized CSAM/CSEM
collections featured Caucasian girls of Westernised appearance.According to
both analyses Asian children comprised the second most common ethnic group
represented in the image collections. These trends were latterly borne out in
the findings of the first systematic study of a randomised selection of sexual
images retrieved from a UK police database (ChildBase). Here, Quayle and Jones
(2011) determined that the odds of CSAM/CSEM featuring female versus male
children were about 4 to 1, while the odds of an image featuring white children
rather than non-White children were about 10 to 1. While White children dominated
the sample, again Asian children featured second most commonly in the images,
followed by Hispanic-Latino and black children.

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Further
information on the profile of victims derives from analyses of cases where
child victims have been identified from the imagery (e.g. NCMEC, 2017b; Seto et
al., 2018). Seto et al. (2018) performed an analysis of identified victims
notified 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 one
victim and one offender (one relationship) and 633 cases involving ‘multiple
relationships’ between victims and offenders. In the one relationship subgroup,
victims were predominantly white (85%), pubescent (61%), female (76%) with
non-familial relationships (74%) with white (86%) male (98%) offenders. In
terms of the relationships between victims and offenders, the review of the one
relationship subgroup established that most children (64%) were abused by
someone known to them – either in their nuclear family (11%), extended family
(16%) or a non-family member known to the child (37%). Similarly, in the
multiple relationship subgroup, victims were again prominently female (62%)
with non-familial relationships (59%) to male (82%) offenders. The higher
proportions of white girls depicted in CSAM/CSEM cases reported here is
consistent with other, recent studies of identified cases in other
jurisdictions. In their analysis of the characteristics of 687 cases of
identified UK children Quayle, Svedin & Jonsson (2017F1 ) reported that approximately
two-thirds of children depicted in the cases were female and 93% were whiteF2 .

In
so far as proportions of ‘self-generated’ or ‘youth produced’ sexual imagery
have been categorised in these national studies of identified CSAM/CSEM cases,
all have supported the contention that this material has become more prevalent
in identified CSAM/CSEM cases. NCMEC (2017b) reported that 9% of its 1,048
identified CSAM/CSEM series featured ‘self-generated’ contentF3 . However, it should be noted that
these identified cases were limited to those series which had been ‘actively
traded’ online, and in many ‘youth produced’ CSAM/CSEM cases, the produced
content were not widely distributed. Quayle, Svedin & Jonsson (2017)
reported that 44.3% of identified UK cases were self-taken, with 34.4% produced
in a coercive and 9.9% in a non-coercive relationshipF4 . These authors reported that the
prevalence of ‘self-taken’ imagery is not a recent phenomenon in identified
cases in the UK. Since 2010, the number of ‘self-taken’ images each year has
exceeded more than 40% of the total number of images in the UK (ICSE-connected)
DatabaseF5 .

Analyses
of CSAM/CSEM have also attended to the abusive and exploitative experiences of
children depicted in the imagery. Perhaps the first comprehensive analysis of
the severity of sexual victimisation depicted in online CSAM/CSEM was conducted
by the staff of the COPINE at University College Cork, Ireland. In this seminal
study, Taylor, Holland and Quayle (2001) attempted to identify the scope of
abusive and exploitative activity that was featured within CSAM/CSEM in order
to create an objective measure of the different levels of sexual victimization
within the images. The resulting 10-point ‘COPINE Scale’, latterly subjected to
an assessment of reliability and construct validity by Merdian, Thakker, Wilson
and Boer (2013), identified that a broad spectrum of victimization was apparent
within CSAM/CSEM. Depicted victimisation ranged from Level 1 – ‘indicative’
imagery, at the lowest end of the continuum (featuring non-sexual images of
children in swimming costumes, family albums or other licit settings where the
context or the manner in which the picture was organized by the collector
indicates inappropriateness), through Level 6 – ‘Explicit Erotic Posing’, where
an 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 were
depicted 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 attention
to 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-consensual
activity such as bestiality, coercive sex or necrophilia – are significant in
that they are aggravating factors in the child’s abusive or exploitative
experience, and they provide important corollary information in the assessment
of the nature and severity of the child’s victimisation. For example, in its
recent analysis of the severity of sexual victimization depicted in actively
traded series, NCMEC (2017b) reported that 83% of its analysed series contained
images depicting close-up exposure of the child’s genitalia and/or anus, 60% of
the series contained images depicting manual stimulation, 38% of the series
contained images depicting oral copulation, and 48% of the series contained
images depicting anal and/or vaginal penetration. Other paraphilic themes also
featured prominently in the depicted abuse and exploitation of children, with
8% of the series containing images depicting bondage and/or sadomasochism, 24%
of the series depicting ejaculation, urination and/or defecation and 1% of the
series containing images depicting bestialityF6 .