Child sexual abuse material — images and videos of kids being sexually abused — is a growing international problem. Almost 70 million reports of this material were made to US authorities in 2019. That figure rose still further in 2020, as the COVID pandemic drove children and adults to spend more time online.
Parents are being called on to be especially vigilant.
However, the sad fact is that online exploitation begins at home for many kids, and in those cases their parent is the last person who can be trusted to keep them safe.
Parental production of child sexual abuse material is a gendered form of abuse. Men were offenders in 90% of cases, and girls were victims in 84% of cases. Boys were victimised in one-fifth of cases, with multiple children abused in some cases.
The victim’s biological father (58%) or stepfather (41%) were most likely to be the offender. However, the victim’s biological mother was involved in 28% of cases, most often as a co-offender.
In eight of the 82 cases, the mother was the sole perpetrator. In these cases, the woman appeared to be producing this material of her children at the request of male acquaintances. In 22% of cases, there were multiple perpetrators involved in the face-to-face abuse, such as both parental figures, other relatives or acquaintances.
- the biological paternal offender who forms adult relationships and has children of his own to exploit
- the step- or de facto parental offender who forms a relationship with a woman and exploits her children or seeks to obtain children by some other means (such as surrogacy)
- the biological mother who produces sexual abuse material of her children at the behest of her partner or men with whom she is acquainted.