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Behaviour and Characteristics of Perpetrators of Online-facilitated Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation: A Rapid Evidence Assessment

Final Report


The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse: The primary remit of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) is to explore how public bodies and other non-state institutions in England and Wales have handled their duty of care in protecting children from sexual abuse. One of the investigations focuses on the institutional responses to child sexual abuse (CSA) and exploitation facilitated by the internet. This is referred to as the Internet Investigation.

ICT and CSA: Evidence suggests that all perpetrators of online-facilitated CSA have broadly been using information and communication technology (ICT) to commit child abuse since the late 1980s.

Research aims and objectives: IICSA commissioned this rapid evidence assessment as part of its investigation into the internet and CSA. Its aim was to answer the question: ‘What is known about the behaviour and characteristics of people who sexually abuse or exploit children, where such abuse is facilitated by the internet?’

Research aims and objectives

In responding to the primary research question listed above, the rapid evidence assessment considered how perpetrators use specific technologies to offend and how the availability of these technologies influences perpetrators’ behaviour, how perpetrators identify and target potential victims across forums, and what the key safeguarding challenges are for institutions raised by changing technologies and associated perpetrator behaviour.

The rapid evidence assessment also sought to identify evidence regarding emerging types of offences, including self-generated material in sexual solicitation, exploitation and abuse of children, sexual extortion, and offences in which self-generated sexual material shared freely online by children is identified and circulated by perpetrators with an interest in child sexual exploitation material.

Lastly, the rapid evidence assessment also aimed to capture information pertaining to children who perpetrate online-facilitated sexual abuse against peers, relationships between different types of offending, and pathways into offending.

The rapid evidence assessment was conducted in four stages: pilot, evidence selecting, evidence screening and evidence synthesising.

The findings from the above points are presented to best synthesise the information in responding to each one while considering the primary research question.