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International and internet child sexual abuse and exploitation - issues emerging from research

Gallagher, Bernard, Christmann, Kris, Fraser, Claire and Hodgson, Beth (2003) International and internet child sexual abuse and exploitation - issues emerging from research. Child and Family Law Quarterly, 15 (4). pp. 353-371. ISSN 1358-8184

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There has, in recent years, been growing awareness and concern over cases of child sexual
abuse (CSA) and exploitation1 which involve an international or internet dimension. These
include child trafficking,2 child sex tourism,3 child abuse images4 (CAI), and g rooming.5 In
terms of official recognition, these are relatively new risks to children, and ostensibly quite
major ones. Governments, law enforcement and welfare agencies, voluntary bodies and
industry have responded by implementing or advocating a plethora of policy and practice
measures.6 In light of this level of concern and intervention, this article seeks to establish what
is known regarding the extent and nature of these cases, and examines the subsequent
organisational response. It does this by drawing upon the authors’ ongoing research in this
area, other (completed) research and the wider literature.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: First published in Child and Family Law Quarterly Volume 15 Number 4 2003 and reproduced by kind permission of Jordan Publishing Limited.
Uncontrolled Keywords: international internet child sexual abuse exploitation
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare
Schools: School of Human and Health Sciences
School of Human and Health Sciences > Applied Criminology Centre
School of Human and Health Sciences > Centre for Applied Childhood Studies
School of Human and Health Sciences > Centre for Applied Childhood, Youth and Family Research
References: 1 A number of authors, especially in this particular field of study, discriminate between child sexual abuse, which is generally that which takes place within the home or other familiar contexts, and child sexual exploitation, which generally involves a more commercial and organised element. For the purposes of this article, and partly in the interests of brevity, the term child sexual abuse is used throughout to refer to both categories. For further discussion see J. Warburton, ‘Prevention, protection and recovery of children from commercial sexual exploitation’, paper presented at the 2nd World Congress against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (Yokohama, 17–20 December 2001). 2 Stop the Traffic! (UNICEF, 2003) available at: reportfinal.pdf. 3 J. Seabrook, No Hiding Place: Child Sex Tourism and the Role of Extraterritorial Legislation (Zed Books, 2000); M. Taylor and E. Quayle, Child Pornography. An Internet Crime (Brunner-Routledge, 2003); and D. Finkelhor, K. J. Mitchell and J. Wolak, Online Victimisation: A Report on the Nation’s Youth (National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, 2000). 4 In common with an increasing number of workers in the field, we believe the term ‘child abuse images’ should be used in place of ‘child pornography’. This is because it is felt the latter term tends to suggest that the problem is predominantly one of images of naked children and does not convey the full range of acts to which children may be subjected, and which can, for example, involve rape, bestiality and torture. 5 ‘Grooming’ refers to the process whereby a would-be abuser manipulates a child into a situation where he or she can be more readily sexually abused and is simultaneously less likely to disclose. As the term ‘grooming’ is the one most commonly used at present (including within the Government’s Sexual Offences Bill) it is adopted in this article. However, as a number of commentators have argued, this term is not – in the light of what children are subjected to – a wholly appropriate term. One of the current authors has suggested the term ‘entrapment’ in its place. For further discussion see B. Gallagher, Grappling with Smoke. Investigating and Managing Organised Child Sexual Abuse. A Good Practice Guide (NSPCC, 1998). 6 National Plan for Safeguarding Children from Commercial Sexual Exploitation (Department of Health, 2001).7 ECPAT – End Child Prostitution, Pornography and Trafficking, IWF – Internet Watch Foundation; NSPCC – National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children; and UNICEF – The United Nations Children’s Fund. 8 Where possible this paper uses the term ‘abuser’ in place of ‘paedophile’ as it is felt the latter term is misleading, particularly in respect of the causes of CSA. For further discussion see B. Gallagher, ‘Paedophiles: What’s the problem?’ (1998) 28 Nota News 3. 9 Op cit, n 6. 10 Profiting from Abuse. An Investigation into the Sexual Exploitation of our Children (UNICEF, 2001). 11 Indeed, in the course of writing this article the authors were struck by a number of factual errors in the literature. Although these largely numerical errors were not of an order whereby they conveyed a radically different message, they do serve to underline a casualness with which some of the literature has been produced, which, in turn, underlines the need for caution. 12 A seventh category of case, which could have been included here, is that of children being exposed to pornography over the internet. This, however, was beyond the remit of the current study. For further discussion see K. J . Mitchell, D. Finkelhor a nd J . Wolas, ‘The exposure o f youth t o unwanted s exual material o n the Internet. A National Survey of Risk, Impact and Prevention’ (2003) 34(3) Youth and Society 330.13 What has been included here – as something of a sub-category – are cases where individuals have initiated contact with a child via the latter’s mobile phone, and have gone on to groom and then sexually abuse that child. There were two main reasons why it was felt relevant to include these cases; one, being the increasing computer, and especially internet, ability of mobile phones – the so-called 3G phones; and two, reports from Japan, specifically, of children being drawn into child prostitution having first been approached over their mobile phones. For further discussion see Childnet International, ‘Children, Mobile Phones and the Internet: the Mobile Internet and Children’, proceedings of the Experts’ Meeting in Tokyo (Japan, 6–7 March 2003) available at: L. Kelly and L. Regan, Stopping the Traffic: Exploring the Extent of and Responses to Trafficking in Women for Sexual Exploitation in the UK (Home Office, 2000), at p 22. 15 L. Kelly, ‘Journeys of jeopardy: a commentary on current research on trafficking of women and children for sexual exploitation within Europe’, paper presented at the European Conference on Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Human Beings: Global Challenge for the 21st Century (Brussels, 18–20 September 2000). 16 Op cit, n 2. 17 See, for example, ‘Britons “killed boys” in Dutch porn movies’, The Guardian, 5 April 1997. 18 End Child Exploitation: Faces of Exploitation (UNICEF, 2003), at p 18. 19 Child Trafficking. Information Sheet (UNICEF, 2003), at p 1. 20 Child-Safe. Protecting Young People Travelling Abroad. Conference Report (Avon and Somerset Constabulary, 1999). 21 Facts and Figures (UNICEF, 2003). 22 J. O’Connell Davidson, ‘The Sex Exploiter’, paper presented at the 2nd World Congress against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (Yokohama, 17–20 December 2001), at p 14. 23 Early Marriage: Whose Right to Choose? (Forum on Marriage and the Rights of Women and Girls, 2000).24 C. Somerset, What the Professionals Know: The trafficking of Children into and through the UK for Sexual Purposes (ECPAT, 2001). 25 Op cit, n 15. 26 Op cit, n 14. 27 Op cit, n 2. 28 A. Hill, ‘Teenage slaves bought to order’, The Observer, 14 January 2001. 29 Op cit, n 2. 30 Op cit, n 22. 31 Op cit, n 20.32 British Refugee Council and Save the Children, Separated Children in the UK (Save the Children, 2001). 33 No Child of Mine. Opening the World’s Eyes to the Sexual Exploitation of Children (World Vision, 2002), at p 7. 34 Op cit, n 24. 35 Protecting the Public. Strengthening Protection against Sex Offenders and Reforming the Law on Sexual Offences, Cm 5668 (Home Office, 2002). 36 L. Gray, Children at Risk. Practical Approaches to Addressing Child Protection Issues in Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Vietnam (World Vision, 2003). 37 Op cit, n 6. 38 Op cit, n 10, at p 22. 39 Op cit, n 20. 40 D. Adams, ‘Exchange dangers’, Police Review, 21 August 1998. 41 A Choice by Right. The Report of the Working Group on Forced Marriages (Foreign and Commonwealth Office, 2000). 42 Dealing with Cases of Forced Marriages. Guidelines for Police (Foreign and Commonwealth Office, undated). 43 Forced Marriage – The Overseas Dimension (Foreign and Commonwealth Office, 2000).44 A. Travis and J. Meikle, ‘Howard set to block sex tourism bill’, The Guardian, 13 July 1995. 45 K. Marks, ‘British sex tourists turn killing fields of Cambodia into paedophiles’ playground’ The Independent on Sunday, 5 January 2003. 46 Op cit, n 22. 47 Op cit, n 3.48 End Child Exploitation. Information Sheet (UNICEF, 2003). 49 J. Kane, Sold for Sex (Arena, 1998). 50 ‘Asia’s child sex tourism rising’ available at: (accessed on: 30 June 2003). 51 Op cit, n 10. 52 J. O’Connell, ‘Sex tourism in Cuba’ (1996) 38(1) Race and Class 39. 53 Op cit, n 6. 54 Op cit, n 2. 55 ‘Government Crackdown on Sex Tourism’ available at: accessed on: 9 September 2003. 56 P. Cawson, C. Wattam, S. Brooker and G. Kelly, Child Maltreatment in the United Kingdom. A Study of the Prevalence of Child Abuse and Neglect (NSPCC, 2000).57 HM Customs and Excise, Ninety-third Report of the Commissioners of HM Customs and Excise, Cm 5671 (TSO, 2002). 58 J. Carr, ‘Child Pornography’, paper presented at the 2nd World Congress against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (Yokohama, 17–20 December 2001). 59 Ibid. 60 T. Tate, Child Pornography. An Investigation (Methuen, 1990).61 W. Utting, People Like Us. The Report of the Review of the Safeguards for Children Living Away from Home (TSO, 1997), at p 102. 62 Op cit, n 6. 63 Op cit, n 58. 64 Annual Report of Investigations (US Postal Inspection Service, 2002). 65 Op cit, n 3.66 K. J. Mitchell, D. Finkelhor and J. Wolak, ‘Risk factors for and impact of online sexual solicitation of youth’ (2001) 285(33) Journal of the American Medical Association 3011, at p 3013. 67 Op cit, n 3. 68 Ibid, at p 7.69 Op cit, n 6. 70 Online Grooming and UK Law. A Submission by Childnet International to the Home Office (Childnet International, undated). 71 For example, the Superhighway Safety Pack produced between the Department for Education and Skills and the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency. 72 Op cit, n 58. 73 Op cit, n 35. 74 Op cit, n 70. 75 Op cit, n 60. 76 It should be pointed out that the terms ‘incitement’ and ‘conspiracy’ are, for the purposes of this article, not employed in any strict legal sense but are used to describe the basic components of an offender’s behaviour.77 This may either be a specified child – as occurs when the abuse of children is viewed and directed over the internet in ‘real time’ (ie the person holding the child receives instructions as to what they should do) – or a more general incitement to abuse unknown children. 78 Op cit, n 3. 79 G. Seenan and A. Clennell, ‘Trainee teacher jailed after US tip-off’, The Guardian, 12 August 2003.80 For further discussion see P. Sommer, ‘Evidence in Internet paedophilia cases’, paper presented at the Policing Child Abuse on the Internet Conference (Buckinghamshire Chilterns University College, 15–16 July 2002). 81 There are a number of dimensions according to which the extent of internet-based CAIs can be measured. While this article cannot discuss any of these in detail, it does endeavour to provide some guide as to the scale of the problem. In considering these figures, it is important to take on board a number of caveats. The internet, in terms of content and usage, is massive, expanding, ever-changing and autonomous. Beyond, and because of this, it is impossible to have anything other than a crude idea as to what the internet contains and how it is used. Furthermore, and reflecting the inherently international and anonymous nature of the internet, the extent of the problem can be discussed only on a worldwide, as opposed to a country-specific, basis. 82 This was not an FBI investigation as is commonly reported. 83 R. Hart, Short Report on the Wilton Park Conference 696: Combating Child Abuse on the Internet: An International Response (Wilton Park, 8–10 January 2003). 84 R. Winnett and G. Walsh, ‘Net closes on child porn suspects’, The Sunday Times, 26 January 2003. 85 COPINE – Combating Paedophile Information Networks in Europe. 86 Op cit, n 3, at pp 41–42. 87 Op cit, n 58, at p 21. 88 As M. Taylor and E. Quayle (op cit, n 3, at p 41) have pointed out, many still photographs come from videos: ‘the number of video captures that can be made from a 30-minute video may range from two or three to many thousand, depending on the interests, energy and technical capacity of the producer’. They conclude that ‘the number of pictures available is a rather arbitrary and fluid thing, related as much to the producer’s whim as to objective qualities’.89 R. Ford, ‘Dossier time bomb for 7,000 suspects’, The Times, 13 January 2003. 90 ‘Caught in the net’, The Guardian, 18 July 2003. 91 A. Nathan and D. Leppard, ‘City bosses named on child porn list’, The Sunday Times, 26 January 2003. 92 Op cit, n 58. 93 Ibid. 94 Ibid. 95 Op cit, n 64. 96 A range of other, even higher, figures have been produced on this issue including ones which state that ‘at least 80%’ or ‘almost all’ such offenders sexually assault children (op cit, n 58). 97 Op cit, n 83.
Depositing User: Sara Taylor
Date Deposited: 13 Sep 2007
Last Modified: 28 Aug 2021 23:29


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