Is my brother’s child pornography watching a problem?

Dear Stop It Now!,

I found out that my brother watches pornography containing young children on the internet. He is in his forties, college educated and married. He says it’s not a problem, he doesn’t want to have sex with kids and that no one is getting hurt. Should I be concerned?

Dear Concerned Sibling,

Yes, you should be concerned. Your question is a very important one, and one that more and more people are wondering about. While some people may feel that they are not “abusing” a child by "just watching" pornography with children, there is a child being sexually abused in any situation where they are the object of an adult’s sexual behaviors.

Child pornography is the image of a crime being committed

As the sexual abuse of a child is illegal, any image depicting this is an image of a crime being committed. Watching child pornography is a crime. Everytime your brother watches child pornography, he is committing a crime. In essence, two crimes are being committed at the same time - a child being sexually abused and watching a child being sexually abused. Additionally, when child pornography is watched, it creates a demand for images of children being sexually abused and hence, more children are at risk for being sexually abused by the people who make these images.

I would also add that child sexual abuse can also occur without touching a child. Non-touching child sex abuse does include watching child pornography. A woman who was sexually abused as a child and the abuse was filmed, stated that she feels violated time and time again whenever she thinks about these films being passed around. So, to be clear, viewing child pornography is absolutely child sexual abuse. For further information, please read Defining child sexual abuse.

Getting Help

While not all who view child pornography pose a risk to offend a child in person, some people may find that they have less and less control over how often they seek these images, the thoughts they have during and after viewing child pornography and their overall behavior regarding sex abuse of children. Trained therapists can assess an individual’s risk to offend a child. And I would strongly recommend that your brother consider seeking help. Please look at our resources and referrals for specialized therapy for adults with sexual behavior problems.

Talking Points

Talking to your brother and encouraging him to both stop this behavior and get help may not be easy. Emphasizing some core things may help:

  • Repeated viewing of these images (and fantasizing about them) is harmful to him.
  • Reminding him that these are not pictures of children having sex with adults; these are pictures of children being sexually abused and photographed while it is happening.
  • Sexual abuse of children is illegal and these images are illegal. Viewing or downloading these images is legally dangerous for him, and therefore puts him and other family members at risk.

You can download our guidebook, “Let’s Talk”, which offers advice and suggestions on how to go about preparing for and carrying out difficult types of conversations with adults whose behaviors concern us.

It’s hard to bring up a loved one’s concerning sexual behaviors.  Hopefully, these resources will help you feel prepared for helping your brother.

Take Care,
Stop It Now!

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Last edited on: August 23rd, 2012