Manifestations of Online Child Sexual Exploitation

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While some cases of OCSE can involve physical contact between the perpetrator and the child, many cases of OCSE remain online and do not involve the child meeting the offender.  

Manifestations of sexual exploitation of a child that takes place online has different forms:  

A. Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM)/ Child Sexual Exploitation Material (CSEM) 

One of the main forms of online child sexual exploitation involves the production, manufacturing and distribution of CSAM. Any material such as videos, photographs or even sound recordings which involve children in sexually explicit situations or focusing on children’s genitalia, will be considered CSAM. The distribution of CSAM is a serious crime in Cambodia which can result in prosecution.  

Why should you use the term ‘Child Sexual Abuse Material’ instead of ‘Child Pornography’? The general population recognises CSAM as the term ‘child pornography,’ however, this term does not fully grasp the level of exploitation which is involved in the act. It may falsely imply that there was some level of consent from the child, and thus diminishes the magnitude of the offence without fully recognising the act as a form of sexual exploitation and abuse of the child.  

B. Sexually exploiting children through live streaming  

Live streaming in the context of OCSE is the use of live video applications for streaming sexually explicit activities of children online. The offender will arrange a time for the child to engage in a sexual act, usually in front of a webcam, either by contacting the child directly or through an accomplice. The act will often involve the offender paying the child or the accomplice for the live streaming, and will usually target children from low income families.  

Live streaming of child sexual abuse is directly linked to an increase in child sex offenders who travel for the purpose of child sexual exploitation. The offenders will either travel to the country where the child was sexually exploited through live streaming, or the offender may initially travel to a country to sexually exploit children and while in the country make the arrangements to engage the children in live streaming activities when they return.   

It is important to acknowledge however, that child sex offenders who use live streaming apps to sexually exploit children are not only transnational offenders, and the amount of national and domestic offenders who exploit children online is substantial.  

C. Self-generated indecent material, Sexting and Sextortion 

Sexting is a growing phenomenon particularly among teenagers. It involves the child sending naked and sexually explicit pictures of themselves, commonly to a person of infatuation. Child sex offenders online can use sexting as a means of luring children into sending them back sexual images. Children don’t always realize that once something is sent online it may be very hard to remove. Once an image is sent, it can easily be copied or shared and the child will quickly lose control over who sees it. Sexual images of a child who were sent with the idea that only the recipient whom they trust will see, may actually fall into the hands of child sex offenders. Child sex-offenders often possess a collection of CSAM and a growing portion of CSAM online is thought to have originated while sexting and later distributed by a third party and circulated on the web. Although it is assumed that most self-generated indecent materials are made with the use of mobile devices, almost 90% of content depicting children was done with the use of a webcam.  

It is important to acknowledge that even if the images have been self-generated and sent voluntarily between two minors who are above the age of consent, there is still extreme risk the images will lead to the exploitation of the child and that distribution of CSAM is a crime, even if the child is above the age of consent. 

Another main risk of sexting is that it may lead to sextortion. 

Sextortion is the use of a sexually explicit image of a child to blackmail him/her into sending more CSAM or money. Offenders can be both peer members of the child as well as strangers and adults.  

While some of the images used by child sex offenders to blackmail children were voluntarily generated via sexting, many images were also obtained by child sex offenders through coercion, threats and by manipulative means while communicating with children online as part of their grooming process. Once they have a sexual image of a child, the offender takes advantage of the child’s fear of it being exposed, and threatens to send the picture to the child’s friends and family or expose it publicly unless they gain what they want.  

D. Exposing children to pornography 

Exposing children to pornography is one of the main forms of risks to children online as it increases their chances of being sexually exploited by child sex offenders. While exposing children to adult pornography is not always criminalised by law, it is highly related to OCSE. Exposing children to pornographic images is a common method used by child sex offenders to normalise sexual behaviour among children and encourage them to engage in sexual activities themselves.  

Children should not be exposed to adult content which can be extremely harmful for their development as they are not in a developmental stage to understand what it means and how it can negatively affect them.  

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