Defining Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM)

Danger of the Internet

People can get in trouble before they even realize it. When it is so easy to access sexually explicit materials on the Internet, users can find themselves acting on curiosities they didn’t have before. Some people find themselves losing control over their use of pornography, for example by spending more and more time viewing it and, for some, looking for new and different types of pornography, including child pornography, now called child sexual abuse material (CSAM). Some people accidentally find sexual images of children and are curious or aroused by them. They may justify their behavior by saying they weren’t looking for the pictures, they just “stumbled across” them, etc. If you find what you believe to be sexual images of children on the Internet, report this immediately to authorities by contacting the Cybertipline

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

Viewing child sexual abuse material can affect someone’s judgment about what is acceptable with children. The easy access to pictures of children or underage teens in sexual poses or engaged in sexual activities may reduce someone’s inhibitions about behaving sexually with children or teens. Even viewing questionably legal images of adult models made to look much younger (even prepubescent) can distort a person's understanding of what is acceptable behavior with children or teens. This can lead someone who may not be sexually attracted to children to behave sexually towards a child.

Child sexual abuse material is illegal because it is evidence of a crime and harms all children. Some people refer to CSAM as “crime scene photographs” to make the point that taking such pictures and  behaving sexually with a child are crimes. Viewing child sexual abuse material perpetuates an industry which harms children. Some adults may justify their viewing of CSAM by saying to themselves or others that they would never behave sexually with a child in-person. You can remind them that it is still illegal.

Six things you can do if you are concerned about someone else’s sexual activity online or use of illegal images

  • Suggest that they visit a self-guided recovery website like Get Help from Stop It Now! UK to learn more. You might download helpful materials to review with your friend or loved one.
  • Discuss with them why child sexual abuse material (CSAM) is illegal.
  • Share how their behavior impacts you. If you are hurt, embarrassed or angry, tell them how you feel.
  • Tell them that if they get caught, they are not the only ones who will be hurt if their arrest is made public. They will hurt their family, their friends, and disappoint people who trust them.
  • Share the fact that there are severe penalties for getting caught viewing or having CSAM. They can lose their job, be embarrassed by media coverage, go to jail or prison, and have to register as a sex offender.
  • Remind them that they are not alone and there is help available to them. There are treatment providers who specialize in working with adults who are struggling with their online sexual activity. These specialized professionals understand and know how to help.