Notwithstanding, consequences for victims, and directly compromises their

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Last updated: September 15, 2019

Notwithstanding,some efforts have been made in the literature and practice to provideframeworks for the identification of criminal cases, and to guide interventionplanning (e.g. Crown Prosecution Service, n.

d.; Wolak & Finkelhor 2011).Moreover, the UK national College of Policing has also issued guidance to avertdisproportionate use of prosecutorial responses (College of Policing, 2016).The guidance proposes that case officers should seek, for example, todistinguish incidents of distribution of youth-produced sexual material with malicious intent, or with evidence of coercionFP1 . However, the victim identificationpotential of guidance is limited in that the relevant features of the incidentssuch as ‘malicious intent’ or ‘coercion’ are not well defined for investigativepurposes (Phippen & Brennan, 2017).  1.1.1       Theimpact of CSAM/CSEM on its victimsTheseexamples offer some preliminary insights into the current nature and scale ofonline child sexual abuse and exploitation, with attention to key challenges tovictim identification and other intervention.

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Notwithstanding the need to stepup the scale and quality of victim-focused interventions, comparatively littlework has been undertaken to advance an empirical understanding of theexperiences of the subjects of CSAM/CSEM. Consequently, little, if anything, isunderstood of the ontology of this victimisation, the impact and sequelae ofonline child sexual abuse and exploitation, and the attendant victim issuesthat the international community should address in its work to identify victimsof CSAM/CSEM, to help them to access justice, and to support their recovery.Comparatively little data on victim impact and experience is available toinform the work of criminal justice stakeholders – for example, in assessmentsof offence severity, in support of sentencing and other managementinterventions. This situation continues to present serious consequences forvictims, and directly compromises their potential to access justice, andotherwise realise their fundamental rights. By way of example, it has beenalleged that the lack of conclusive data around the harmful impact of thedissemination of CSAM/CSEM has impeded victims’ success in US restitutionproceedings against individuals charged with possession of images of theirabuse (Laird, 2012).

Thechallenges and complexities now presented by online child sexual abuse andexploitation are not simply attributable to the unprecedented volumes ofCSAM/CSEM in circulation, or the ease with which such imagery may be accessedand exchanged. As suggested above, these also extend to the additional abusivedimensions associated with CSAM/CSEM and fast-changing forms of onlinevictimisation, such as live online child sexual abuse. Thedifficulties in distinguishing the particular impact of a child’s involvementin CSAM/CSEM from the effects of other abusive and exploitative practices havelong-since been established (e.g. Creighton, 2003; Kelly, Wingfield, Burton& Regan, 1995). Evidently, children depicted in CSAM/CSEM are almostroutinely the subjects of sexual abuse and exploitation, whether perpetrated indomestic settings, or in other forms of commercial sexual exploitation, such aschild prostitution and trafficking. Indeed, victims of CSAM/CSEM may besexually exploited in one, several or all of these ways (Cooper, 2012; Svedin& Back, 2003).

In her seminal model of child sexual exploitation, Itzin(1997) demonstrated the highly integrated nature of the myriad forms of childsexual abuse and ‘pornographic exploitation’, building upon Kelly’s (1988)conceptualization of sexual violence as a continuum. Itzin depicted therelationship between the various intra-familial, extra-familial and commercialforms of child sexual abuse and exploitation as inextricably linked to eachother within this continuum, each with the potential to give rise to theproduction of CSAM/CSEM. This paradigm highlights the fluid transitioning thatcan occur between one form of abuse or exploitation and another in theproduction of CSAM/CSEM, and attendant difficulties in isolating the effect ofa specific abusive experience (e.g.

the recording of the abuse) from another(e.g. involvement in trafficking or online solicitation)on the child. In the context of this study, focus is given to this specificmanifestation of the wider problem of child sexual abuse and exploitation,namely that involving the recording of sexual abuse and exploitation in imagesand/or videos. Whilesparse, the available evidence lends substantial support to the view thatvictims of online child sexual abuse routinely experience additional harmfuleffects. Notwithstanding the seemingly intractable relationship that existsbetween the effects of sexual abuse and exploitation and its materialmanifestations (i.

e. CSAM/CSEM) on victims, the available literature hasconsistently distinguished heightened feelings of anxiety, shame andpowerlessness as being associated with the production of CSAM/CSEM (e.g. Cooper,2005; Hunt & Baird, 1990; Silbert, 1989; von Weiler, Haardt-Becker , 2010). Nyman (2008) posited that ICT has both enabled and democratisedCSAM/CSEM production and exchange, while simultaneously exacerbating theharmful effects of CSAM/CSEM victimisation. In cyberspace, there is potentialfor renewed viewing, multiplication and onward dissemination of this imagery(Quayle, 2008).

Once disseminated online, CSAM/CSEM may become imbued with aperpetual quality making it difficult to retrieve, though considerable effortshave been invested more recently in initiatives such as Project Arachnid(Canadian Centre for Child Protection, 2017), which help to reduce the onlineavailability of CSAM and break the cycle of abuse.  Whatis understood of the particular sequelae of online child sexual abuse andexploitation has largely been observed and documented at the level of thirdsector support organisations and forensic or therapeutic services that engagewith this cohort of victims. Many professionals in these sectors have reportedthat the production of abusive imagery introduces an additional dimension tothe abuse and subsequent trauma experienced by victims (Loof, 2005; Palmer,2005; Svedin & Back, 1996). Nyman (2008) described this as the dual traumaof pornographic exploitation – not only have these children been madevulnerable, sexually abused and exploited, but they experience additionaltrauma  knowing that the abuse itself hasbeen documented and made available to an indeterminable audience. This viewlends support to Zurbriggen, Pearce and Freyd’s (2003) account of the impact ofrecording child sexual abuse on its victims. Within the paradigm of ‘betrayaltrauma theory’, Freyd (1994, 1996, 2002) it was proposed that child victimswill experience additional harm transcending that which results from theactions being photographed; harm which extends to the effects of thedissemination of the image, wherein the publication or exhibition of the imagemay be perceived as a further betrayal of the child’s trust, or an invasion oftheir privacy, leading to greater feelings of traumatisation. It is thereforeunsurprising that the existence of recordings of the sexual abuse andexploitation of a child have been suggested to act as a further barrier todisclosure, reducing the likelihood of disclosure and sometimes preventing italtogether (Svedin & Back, 1996; Loof, 2005). Nowhere is this theme moreobvious than in cases of exploited production and dissemination of ‘youthproduced’ sexual imagery.

Here societal victim-blaming tendencies, personalfeelings of guilt and violation, and punitive responses to child subjects ofthe imagery function to silence victims, while feelings of self-blame maybecome integrated into the victim’s self-concept (Brennan & Phippen, in pressFP2 ). FP1Reference needed here as we are citing a source. FP22018?

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