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How to Combat Images and Videos of Child Sexual Exploitation

Many minors don't realize sharing nudes of themselves or other minors is illegal and that their images can be sent to people they never intended.

Combating Child Sexual Exploitation Material (aka “child pornography”)

In order to combat the exponentially-growing issue of child sexual exploitation material (CSEM) on the internet, it’s important to be educated on its prevalence and be aware of the conditions that may fuel it—including the culture children are growing up in.

Sending nudes

Many teens agree that sending nudes is normal.

Approximately 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 10 boys aged 13-17 report sharing their own nudes, according to a 2020 report. But 1 in 3 underage teens also report having seen nonconsensually shared nudes of other minors—in other words, child sexual exploitation material.Thorn. (2020). Thorn research: Understanding sexually explicit images, self-produced by children. Retrieved from https://www.thorn.org/blog/thorn-research-understanding-sexually-explicit-images-self-produced-by-children/Copy 

Related: Understanding the Growing Problem of Child Sexual Exploitation Material

Many minors don’t realize that sharing nudes of themselves or other minors is illegal and that their images can end up in the hands of people they never intended.

In fact, over 90% of police officers report that self-generated images are common in their investigations of CSEM.NetClean. (2018). NetClean report 2018: A report about child sexual abuse crime. Retrieved from https://www.netclean.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2018/12/The-NetClean-Report-2018_Web.pdfCopy 

“Underage” content in porn

Considering porn’s ability to normalize toxic sexual narratives, it’s concerning to note that one of the most consistently popular porn themes is “teen.”

Research indicates that teen-themed porn often refers to the portrayal of underage individuals and that this theme is becoming increasingly popular.Walker, A., Makin, D. A., & Morczek, A. L. (2016). Finding Lolita: A comparative analysis of interest in youth-oriented pornography. Sexuality & Culture, 20(3), 657-683. doi:10.1007/s12119-016-9355-0Copy 

“Mainstream pornography sites are changing the thresholds of what is normal and I think it’s dangerous. Of course, most people can watch extreme porn and walk away, but I don’t see those people. What we are seeing on a daily basis is the conflation of easy access to hardcore and [extreme] pornography and an interest in child molestation. The link is unambiguous.” –Michael Sheath, child abuse expert

Related: How to Report Child Sexual Abuse Material if You or Someone You Know Sees It Online

Because any commercial sex act with a minor is legally defined as sex trafficking, the production and distribution of CSEM often qualifies as a form of trafficking. Of the domestic minor trafficking victims who had been forced into porn, the average age they began being filmed was 12.8 years old.Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000, Pub. L. No. 106–386, Section 102(a), 114 Stat. 1464. https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/BILLS-106hr3244enr/pdf/BILLS-106hr3244enr.pdfCopy Bouché, V. (2018). Survivor insights: The role of technology in domestic minor sex trafficking. Thorn. Retrieved from https://www.thorn.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/Thorn_Survivor_Insights_090519.pdfCopy 

Store - General

Reportedly, 67% of CSEM survivors said the distribution of their images affects them differently than the childhood sexual abuse itself because the circulation of their images never ends.Canadian Centre for Child Protection. (2017). Survivors' survey: Full report. Retrieved from https://protectchildren.ca/pdfs/C3P_SurvivorsSurveyFullReport2017.pdfCopy 

Porn can be so effective at normalizing toxic sexual scripts and sexual violence that many sexual predators use porn to groom their victims and desensitize them to sexual advances.International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children. (2017). Online grooming of children for sexual purposes: Model legislation & global review. ( No. 1). Retrieved from https://www.icmec.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Online-Grooming-of-Children_FINAL_9-18-17.pdfCopy Lanning, K. V. (2010). Child molesters: A behavioral analysis for professionals investigating the sexual exploitation of children. (No. 5). National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Retrieved from https://www.missingkids.org/content/dam/missingkids/pdfs/publications/nc70.pdfCopy 

Have you sent nudes while you were under 18?

As you can see from the surveys above, teens are sending and receiving nudes now more than ever. If you have nudes online from when you were under 18, you’re not alone—there is help to get them removed. Take It Down is a free resource created by the National Center on Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) created to help you remove online nude, partially nude, or sexually explicit photos and videos taken before you were 18. If you’ve sent an explicit picture to someone while you were under 18, and now they’re threatening you or have posted it somewhere, or even if you’re unsure whether the image has been shared but want some help to try to remove it from places it may appear online, this service is for you.

Take It Down is a free service that can help you remove or stop the online sharing of nude, partially nude, or sexually explicit images or videos taken of you when you were under 18 years old. You can remain anonymous while using the service, and you won’t have to send your images or videos to anyone. You can learn how to use Take It Down, a free, anonymous resource, here.

For more victim resources, click here.

Related: 7 Things You Can Do If You’re a Victim of Deepfakes or Revenge Porn

It’s time to stop consuming content that glorifies or normalizes abuse.

To report CSEM, get help, or to learn more about combating child sexual exploitation, visit the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at MissingKids.org.

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