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Child sexual abuse facilitated online

Summary

The Inquiry wants to learn more about child sexual abuse that is enabled by the internet, together with ways in which children can be kept safe from this type of abuse. The Inquiry has therefore carried out a package of research consisting of:

  • Three rapid evidence assessments (REAs), published in January 2018. These bought together existing research covering:

    • The extent and scale of child sexual abuse facilitated online;

    • The characteristics of victims of child sexual abuse facilitated online; and

    • The behaviour and characteristics of perpetrators of child sexual abuse facilitated online.

  • New research exploring children’s views on how they learn to stay safe from child sexual abuse facilitated online.

 

Key Themes

  • Child sexual abuse
  • Online
  • Internet
  • Vulnerability

 

Contact

research@iicsa.org.uk

Background

  • The Internet Investigation is looking at the adequacy of the response of the police and other law enforcement organisations as well as the internet industry to child sexual abuse facilitated online. The investigation focuses on the institutional responses and actions and aims to make practical recommendations that minimise the opportunities for child sexual abuse, perpetrated enabled by the internet, in the future.

  • Child sexual abuse facilitated online includes sexual grooming and receiving sexual requests, live streaming as well as producing, exchanging and commissioning images of child sexual abuse in the digital environment. Online behaviours such as self-generated images, sexting (sending sexual messages, images, audios or videos via mobile phones and other devices) and live streaming also put children at risk of being sexually abused or exploited.  

Timeline

January 2018:  REAs published

June 2018: Planning for research started

January 2019: Fieldwork to start

Autumn 2019: Research report to be  published

What we have learned from the REAs

  • Quantifying the extent of online-facilitated child sexual abuse

The REA looked at sources that measure the scale of child sexual abuse facilitated online in the following ways: (a) number of reported offences; (b) number of victims; (c) number of perpetrators; and (d) number of images viewed, downloaded or exchanged. Each of these four measures produces very different figures, partly because they are attempting to count different aspects of online-facilitated child sexual abuse. None of these measures are likely to reveal the true extent of online-facilitated child sexual abuse.

  • Characteristics and vulnerabilities of victims of online-facilitated child sexual abuse and exploitation

There is strong evidence to suggest that girls are more likely to be victims of online-facilitated child sexual abuse than boys. The following characteristics may put some children at greater risk: prior experience of neglect of abuse; disability; social isolation; amount of time spent online; other risky behaviour such as alcohol or drug use.

  • Behaviour and characteristics of perpetrators of online-facilitated child sexual abuse

There is an absence of research about the demographic profile of perpetrators of online-facilitated child sexual abuse. However studies suggest that more perpetrators are male, aged 18-25 and are less likely to have previous convictions compared to other perpetrators of child sexual abuse.

What the new research is about

The new research aims to:

  • understand children’s knowledge about staying safe from online-facilitated child sexual abuse.
  • understand how they learn about the dangers of online-facilitated child sexual abuse,

  • understand their views on education on staying safe online;

The research will involve around 100 participants, aged 10-18 years, and will use qualitative and quantitative methods to gather their views.

We have commissioned the University of Bedfordshire to undertake this research.

Implications for the work of the Inquiry

The findings from the research supports the Internet investigation, specifically in terms of children’s views and where there may be gaps in safeguarding and education.

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