How do people access sexual images of children?

For anyone under the age of 30 it is hard to imagine what life was like before we had almost immediate access - from almost anywhere on the planet - not only to emails and social media, but to all kinds of information and every kind of website.  Now, we take it for granted that we can do everything from booking a holiday or making an appointment to taking a degree, via the Internet.  It has given us access to the kinds and varieties of information and entertainment that we could never have imagined only a few years ago and is a hugely positive force in very many ways. 

However, there are also very real ‘downsides’ of the Internet, including the so-called ‘Dark Web’, on which may be found harmful and extreme material, including illegal pornography and terrorism-related sites.  Such material can also be found, of course, on websites that are much easier to access.   Huge numbers of people access legal pornography sites and, for many, this is a ‘gateway’ into more extreme, or maybe younger images, as they become bored by or desensitised to what they are viewing.

This simple model shows how easy it can be to access illegal material on the Internet and why it feels ‘safe’ to do this:

  • Accessibility – it is an easy and seemingly risk-free way to look at illegal pornographic material.
  • Affordability – although payment is still required for some ‘special interest’ material, most sexual images of children at all levels (including videos) can be accessed for free.
  • Anonymity – is the most powerful of these three offending enablers because it removes the deterrent effects of shame and fear of the consequences of someone knowing what you are doing.

Cooper’s Triple A Engine model (1998)

 

This shows how easy it can be to access the material if someone is motivated to do so. If people are sharing images with others online this can help normalise their behaviour. We are now going to look at the reasons why someone might be motivated to look at images.

 


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