Focusing on online facilitated child sexual abuse, this book takes a rigorous approach to existing literature to address some of the most pressing public and policy questions surrounding the evolution of online child sexual abuse.
The authors provide an unparalleled examination of which children are most vulnerable to this type of abuse, how their vulnerability is made, what they are vulnerable to and how resilience, both human and technical, can be promoted. They also consider the changing nature of child sexual abuse in the digital age and the consequences of this for victims and survivors, as well as for practitioners and policymakers working in prevention and response.
This chapter analyses the grounded experience of children trafficked into the United Kingdom, including those – such as an identifiable group of girls and young women – who are then trafficked on into other European countries. It uses a child rights perspective based on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child to examine dilemmas associated with child trafficking. It is widely believed that hundreds, and more likely thousands, of children are trafficked into the UK annually, and that this is not solely for sexual exploitation but for a much wider range of purposes. The chapter looks at the experience of children trafficked from West Africa into the UK, as well as their exploitation through domestic servitude, private fostering arrangements in the UK, child trafficking for forced marriage, and the link between culture and child trafficking.
This introductory chapter provides an overview of online child sexual abuse, which is a concern for many parents, practitioners, and policy makers. One dominant fear is that of the stranger approaching children online, lurking in chatrooms masquerading as a child in order to lure victims for abusive ends. Yet child sexual abuse can also begin offline and become online through filming or photography, or it can be virtual, such as in the distribution of child abuse images. Indeed, distinctions between online- and offline-facilitated child sexual abuse are increasingly blurred. This book focuses on online child sexual victimisation. Victims are made both by the acts perpetrated on them (by perpetrators) and by the social context in which these acts take place and the consequences that are felt. The book examines online-facilitated child sexual abuse research through the lens of this social context, which contains multiple definitions of what is childhood, sex, and abuse as it connects to the Internet.
This chapter outlines what is known about the characteristics, vulnerabilities, and on- and offline behaviour of victims of online-facilitated child sexual abuse and exploitation, considering the analysis carried out through a systematic rapid evidence assessment (REA). Beginning with a summary of research sources, it presents four general conclusions from the research. First, online child sexual victimisation (OCSV) is varied. At least five types of OCSV were identified: grooming by strangers, primarily initiated in social networking or gaming websites; sexual exploitation by strangers in webcam centres and similar; sexual abuse by family members or acquaintances that is photographed or videoed; coercive sexual violence between peers, leading to youth-produced material; and trafficking of child abuse material online. Second, an important finding from the triangulation of the different data sources is the under-reporting, and lack of research, concerning young children who are subject to OCSV. A third finding is that the field encompasses a wide range of behaviours and social phenomena that are often implicit in the research, including the relationship between sexual victimisation and other sources of harm, such as cyberbullying; childhood sexual activity that is not violent; gender regimes and patriarchy; and social divisions and intersectionality. Finally, there is significant variation in the definitions and concepts utilised in the research, which makes direct comparison problematic.
This chapter discusses how childhood sexuality has been researched in historical, clinical, and academic studies outside the rapid evidence assessment (REA). It finds that, first, recognition of childhood sexuality is evident in all three fields. Second, even when confronted by contradictory evidence, Sigmund Freud's theory retains currency within which understanding of childhood (sexual) development is reported; acceptance of the latency of childhood sexuality (or asexuality) perpetuates a context for framing childhood as asexual. Actions such as imitations of adult sex, watching pornography, and concern about early puberty stray into the realms of the abnormal as a consequence. The chapter then examines some of the sexual practices engaged in by children mediated by the online environment. It considers consensual youth-involved sexual imagery online and the difficult task of distinguishing between normative sexual exploration, ‘sexting’, and online child sexual victimisation (OCSV).
This chapter reviews what is known about child sexual abuse media, with a particular focus on the abuse of young children (those under the age of 10). Young children are seldom the subject of research on sexual violence, yet the online-facilitated sexual abuse of these children is known to exist. In the past, child sexual abuse has been described as a hidden phenomenon that is made visible through a child's disclosure or evidence in and on their bodies. Online child sexual victimisation (OCSV) experienced by young children is still hidden in this traditional sense but at the same time highly visible through images that are both detached from the child yet traumatically attached through their creation and continued circulation throughout childhood. Indeed, most of what can be known about OCSV and younger children is through analyses of images harvested online and analyses of law enforcement and non-governmental organisation (NGO) image databases. These sources suggest that OCSV involving young children is different from that experienced by those who are older. It more often involves parents, carers, and family members; it is legally and developmentally impossible for children to consent to it; and images and videos of the abuse are more likely to be trafficked.
This chapter examines the concepts of ‘vulnerability’ and ‘resilience’, noting that most research focuses only on an individualised understanding of these terms. What can be known from empirical research is reviewed through the lens of intersectional theory, which accentuates the need for a whole-system approach to afford children greater protection. Just as online child sexual victimisation (OCSV) is not homogenous, neither are children. Their age, gender, race, sexualities, migration status, and class intersect and change over time. Vulnerability and resilience can be time and identity specific. They can also be fluid; a prior victimisation does not necessarily result in vulnerability, and resilience to one form of OCSV may not provide resilience to another. From a child's perspective, OCSV experience holds similarities and important differences in terms of perpetration and consequences, requiring tailored intersectional responses at the appropriate level.
This concluding chapter calls for greater clarity and agreement on definitions and measurement practices concerning online child sexual victimisation (OCSV). First, there is a need for agreed definitions of OCSV that distinguish between normative childhood sexuality and sexual violence, both on- and offline. Second, research, policy, and practices must reflect that the child is only one element that requires protection. Taking a cybersecurity asset approach, the chapter emphasises the need for coordinated action to enhance and protect social goods, such as trust in technology, law enforcement resources, and fundamental rights. Finally, it recommends that guardianship responsibility is extended to children themselves and considers some of the technical tools that might assist their participation.
In the context of high rates of domestic violence and abuse (DVA) during the pandemic, specialist DVA services have been required to adapt rapidly to continue to deliver essential support to women and children in both refuges and the community. This study examines service users’ experiences and views of DVA service provision under COVID-19 and discusses implications for future practice. Data are drawn from a wider evaluation of DVA services in five sites in England. Fifty-seven semi-structured interviews and five focus groups were conducted with 70 female survivors and seven children accessing DVA services during the pandemic. Analysis identified key themes in respect of the influence of COVID-19 on the experience of service delivery. COVID-19 restrictions had both positive and negative implications for service users. Remote support reduced face-to-face contact with services, but consistent communication counteracted isolation. Digital practices offered effective means of providing individual and group support, but there were concerns that not all children were able to access online support. Digital support offered convenience and control for survivors but could lack privacy and opportunities for relationship-building. The pivot to remote delivery suggests directions where DVA services can expand the range and nature of future service provision.
Reducing poverty is important for those affected, for society and the economy. Poverty remains entrenched in the UK, despite considerable research efforts to understand its causes and possible solutions. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation, with the Centre for Science and Policy at the University of Cambridge, ran a democratic, transparent, consensual exercise involving 45 participants from government, non-governmental organisations, academia and research to identify 100 important research questions that, if answered, would help to reduce or prevent poverty. The list includes questions across a number of important themes, including attitudes, education, family, employment, heath, wellbeing, inclusion, markets, housing, taxes, inequality and power.