Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM): Getting Help to Stop

The Internet makes it easy to cross the line

Since it is so easy to access sexually explicit images on the Internet, you may find yourself acting on curiosities you didn’t have before. You may be realizing that you feel less in control of your use of pornography, for example by spending more and more time viewing it and or looking for new and different types of pornography, including abusive images of children. Although it may feel like your internet activity is anonymous, remember that sexual images of children are illegal, and law enforcement is constantly looking for those who view, produce and distribute these harmful images.

Get help before it’s too late

You may have “stumbled across” abusive images of children and found that you were curious or aroused by them. If you have continued to look at or seek out these types of images, you may have explained this behavior to yourself or others by saying that you came across them by accident. A fascination or interest in child sexual abuse material (CSAM) is a sign a person needs help. If you are concerned about what you have been looking at or the sexual thoughts and feelings you have while online, seek the help of a professional who specializes in this area.

Frequent or unmanageable use of adult pornography can sometimes lead to use of child sexual abuse material

Some adults who regularly use legal adult pornography get bored with images of adults and begin to look for pictures of different types of sexual encounters. Not everyone who views CSAM is sexually attracted to children. You might find the images arousing because they are new or different from sexual situations you have seen before. You might also get a thrill from the risk-taking involved in looking at something that is illegal.

Child sexual abuse material is illegal because it is evidence of a crime

Some people call child sexual abuse material “crime scene photographs” to make the point that taking the picture or behaving sexually with a child is a crime. Viewing CSAM harms children. You may justify your viewing of this content by saying to yourself that you would never behave sexually with a child in-person, but it is still illegal and abusive.

Viewing child sexual abuse material can affect your judgment about what is acceptable with children

Frequently viewing pictures of children or underage teens in sexual poses or engaged in sexual activities may lessen your inhibitions about behaving sexually with them. Even legal images of adult models made to look much younger (even prepubescent) can distort the socially acceptable and legal standards that dictate where the lines are drawn. This “gray” area of pornography can confuse adults about what is legal behavior between adults and children, or between minors. The volume of material out there may make it seem like “everyone” is doing it, and may make you feel like it would be okay for you to ask a child to do sexual things or show them these images. But it is not; it’s illegal.

If you are concerned about your own use of illegal images, here are 4 things you can do

  • Visit a self-guided recovery website like Get Help from Stop It Now! UK to learn more. To begin to understand your problematic use of the Internet, you might download helpful materials to review with a friend or loved one.
  • Let someone you trust know you are worried about your behavior online. Consider how your behavior may already be impacting others. Your illegal activity can lead to an arrest and then you will not be the only one who will be burdened by hurt, humiliation or isolation if an arrest is made public.
  • Remember that there are severe penalties for getting caught viewing or having CSAM. You may lose your job, be embarrassed by media coverage, go to jail or prison, or have to register as a sex offender.
  • Find help. There are treatment providers who specialize in working with adults who are struggling with their use of the Internet for sexual purposes. They understand and know how to help.