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  • Protect Children

Upcoming research: enhancing help-seeking motivations of CSAM users

Updated: Mar 27


In April 2023, Protect Children launched a new research project, with the aim to enhance help-seeking motivations of child sexual abuse material (CSAM) users and understand their tech pathways to the dark web.

The creation, distribution, and viewing of CSAM is one of the most prevalent forms of online crimes of sexual violence against children. Online crimes are equally as harmful as those committed in person. The long-lasting, terrifying effects of imposed trauma demonstrate the paramount importance of prevention. When working to end all forms of child sexual abuse, we must prioritize preventing victimization in the first place. One of the ways to achieve it is to address the core of the issue: offenders.

A significant amount of research has been done on rehabilitating contact sexual offenders. Although this group of individuals does have an overlap with CSAM users, such research does not always provide relevant information on treatment of the latter.

In the ReDirection project, we attempt to address this knowledge gap by reaching out to anonymous CSAM users in the dark web. When someone searches for CSAM in the dark web, they are suggested to participate in the ReDirection surveys – ‘Help us to help you’ and ‘No need for help’. The ‘Help us to help you’ survey, among other things, contains questions related to ending CSAM use and seeking help. The data revealed that many CSAM users want to change and they want assistance:

50% of CSAM users would like to stop viewing CSAM.

62% of CSAM users have already tried to stop using CSAM.

Only 3% of CSAM users have received help.

Based on the data we collected in the ReDirection project, we developed the ReDirection Self-Help Program – an anonymous rehabilitative program that helps to end use of CSAM. In a mission to constantly improve the program, in 2022, we piloted the RDChat – an anonymous chat service where CSAM users could ask questions about the program or receive help with the lack of motivation.

To understand more about seeking help for CSAM use, we developed a survey to ask users of the ReDirection program about their experiences. The ‘Motivation to Change’ survey is suggested to actively help-seeking individuals working on the ReDirection Self-Help Program. Respondents to the surveys shared:

“I want to change my life, I feel awful and the kind of people that circles around that content is awful, most of them are psychos that really need help”

“I desperately wanted to be free of this addiction. I wanted to see children not like that or ever have feelings for them again. I wanted to be normal and live a full life with my wife. It’s constantly distressing to have those thoughts pop into my head or see the things I’ve seen. I wanted freedom and peace.”

In the ‘Motivation to Change’, we ask users about their motivation to seek help, with the aim of understanding the barriers and facilitators to help-seeking. For example, we ask what motivated them to seek help, how long it took to find a suitable help resource, their experiences with other help resources, and which factors they find most important when seeking help.

Since April 2023, over 90 individuals have responded to this survey in English, Spanish, and Finnish. We aim to conduct new research to understand more about how we can enhance and encourage help-seeking behaviour among CSAM users. This will help us improve and develop effective help resources for CSAM users pursuing our goal to end all forms of sexual violence against children.

Stay tuned! We will share new ReDirection project results in the beginning of 2024. See other results of the ReDirection project:

Subscribe to Protect Children's newsletter to follow the ReDirection project’s development.


The research is funded by Tech Coalition #SafeOnline Research Fund. End Violence’s Safe Online Initiative, in close partnership with grantees and partners, is leading on global efforts to make the internet safe for children by investing for impact in programmes that work and generating evidence to inform advocacy and collective action.


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