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  • Protect Children

New insights into anonymous child sexual abuse material offenders

Updated: May 30


Preliminary findings from our latest research on individuals who search for child sexual abuse material reveals invaluable new insights for the prevention of online crimes of sexual violence against children.

girl pointing at a map

The spread of child sexual abuse material (CSAM) online has become a global issue of epidemic proportions. With the advancement of technology, the amount of CSAM has grown exponentially and explosively. Crimes of sexual violence against children of which there is recorded footage are particularly traumatic for the child, as the mere awareness that there is a video recording or photograph of their sexual abuse, coupled with the fear of its possible spread and circulation online, can have a life-long devastating impact.

The prevention of these crimes cannot be successful if we only look at them from one angle. Our approach must be multi-faceted and address each actor involved. We are especially lacking an accurate understanding of the offenders of online child sexual abuse. This is because most previous research tends to cover convicted samples of offenders, or those who have come to the attention of authorities. By learning more about those who commit the offences, we can develop more effective prevention strategies.

We recognise that we still need to know more. Our Protect Children research team has been conducting innovative research on anonymous CSAM users over the past three years. We have learnt a lot about the crimes, however there are more questions yet to be answered. Seeking to answer these questions, as part of our EU-funded Project 2KNOW, we developed a new voluntary, anonymous survey of individuals who search for child sexual abuse material or help resources on dark web search engines.​ The survey received ethics approval from the University of Eastern Finland in June 2023, and we began data collection on 1 July 2023.​ Since then, we have received over 2,400 responses.

The preliminary findings from this survey reveal important insights for the prevention of online sexual violence against children.

Preliminary findings:

Respondent demographics

Motivation to view child sexual abuse material

Habitual use of pornography

Victim demographics

Adverse childhood experiences

graphs showing respondent demographics

Project 2KNOW

Project 2KNOW aims to support and improve national and international data collection on violence against children by developing a sustainable and replicable data collection model that is suited to gathering information about online sexual violence against children. Project 2KNOW brings together three project partners: the University of Eastern Finland, the Council of the Baltic Sea States, and Protect Children.

Project 2KNOW is funded by the European Commission’s Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values Programme (CERV) under the 2022 call for proposals to prevent and combat gender-based violence and violence against children (CERV-2022-DAPHNE).

logo funded by the European Union


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