Child Pornography – Part Three

Will an offender that views child porn become a ‘hands on’ offender?

Melissa Killeen

Melissa Killeen

The Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers is an international, multi-disciplinary organization dedicated to preventing sexual abuse. In a report adopted by the ATSA Executive Board of Directors on September 7, 2010 it was found that there is increasing attention paid to Internet-facilitated sexual offending. Internet-related sexual offending includes different crimes, including: viewing, trading, or producing child pornography to be traded or posted on-line. Others use the Internet to make contact with a child, or adolescent, these offenders are often called ‘hands on’ or ‘contact’ offenders. These offenders seek to contact vulnerable persons for sexual chats (electronic correspondence), exploitation such as convincing a child to view or produce pornographic images (e.g., having the child take and email a nude picture of him/herself), or to arrange face-to-face meetings to commit sexual offenses (sometimes referred to as “luring” or “traveler” offending)1 .

The vast majority of these ‘contact’ abuses against minors are from either a family member, or someone the child knows such as a family friend, coach, teacher or church leader, according to Dr. Fred Berlin, founder and director of the Johns Hopkins Sexual Disorders Clinic in Baltimore. Whereas the viewer of child pornography remains anonymous.

That is not to say there is not a significant amount of psychological damage is perpetrated on children during the production and subsequent constant viewing of child pornography. Incredible and devastating harm is done to these young children that requires years of counseling and treatment in order for these young victims to heal, if they can ever heal. It is the point of this blog, to clarify that viewers of child pornography often do not move on to being ‘contact’ offenders.

It is a primary concern for professionals who evaluate and treat Internet-facilitated sexual offenders to assess the risk these viewers may pose to perpetrate direct contact offenses with victim(s) or to commit future Internet-facilitated sexual offenses such as producing and/or distributing child pornography. Accurate risk assessment is critical to decisions by law enforcement in order to make appropriate recommendations for sentencing, treatment, and level of supervision. Across studies of Internet-facilitated child pornography offenders, approximately one in ten has an officially known history of contacting a child for the purpose of sexual offending2 . However, the majority of Internet-facilitated sexual offenders have no known history of contact sexual offenses. Some, through self-reporting, suggests these offenders may have committed contact offenses, but never got caught. However unfortunately, there is very little research to assess the risk of viewers of child pornography who have no official history of contact sexual offenses to relapse into contact offenders.

A follow-up study of offenders that view child pornography suggest these individuals present less risk for any future hands-on offenses, on average, than undifferentiated samples of contact sex offenders3 . Viewers of child pornography also presented a relatively low risk to commit another child pornography viewing offense. The preliminary results of follow-up research suggest criminal history, self-reported sexual interest in children, and unstable lifestyle (e.g., substance use problems) are factors that identify the likelihood that contact offenders will re-offend. As a result of these risks and unstable lifestyles, 8.5% of the offender population are more likely commit a contact sexual offense in the future4 .

Possession of child pornography is a felony under federal law and in every state. If you know of anyone producing or promoting child pornography, please report them through the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s CyberTipline: 1 (800) 843-5678. If you are concerned about what you or a loved one has been looking at while online, seek the help of a professional who specializes in this area.

References used in this blog:

1 Motivans, M., & Kyckelhahn, T. (2007). Federal prosecution of child sex exploitation offenders, 2006 (Report No. NCJ 219412). Bureau of Justice Statistics Bulletin. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs.

2 Seto, M.C., Hanson, R.K., and Babchishin, K.M. (in press). Contact Sexual Offending By Men with Online Sexual Offenses. Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment.

3 Seto, M. C., & Eke, A. W. (2005). The future offending of child pornography offenders. Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, 17, 201-210

4 Wolak, J., Finkelhor, D., Mitchell, K. J., & Ybarra, M. L. (2008). Online “predators” and their victims: Myths, realities, and implications for prevention and treatment. American Psychologist, 63, 111-128.

The Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health (SASH) is a nonprofit multidisciplinary organization dedicated to scholarship, training, and resources for promoting sexual health and overcoming problematic sexual behaviors. SASH is the only organization dedicated specifically to helping those who suffer from out of control sexual behavior.

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s CyberTipline: 1 (800) 843-5678 . The CyberTipline is operated in partnership with the FBI, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, U.S. Secret Service, military criminal investigative organizations, U.S. Department of Justice, Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force program, as well as other state and local law enforcement agencies.

Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers is an international, multi-disciplinary organization dedicated to preventing sexual abuse. Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers offers symposia, workshop presentations, discussion groups, and advanced clinics relating to issues in both victim and perpetrator research and treatment at an annual conference in November 2016.

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