An article by Laura Negredo López

Child pornography has become a global issue with very serious social, legal and personal consequences. Although it is not a new phenomenon, internet has made child sexual abuse material to be easy to access from anonymous computers all around the world. Countries have reacted increasing the legal forces to detect and prevent this problem, as well as imposing severe penalties for this type of crime.

There are several actors that play a role in internet sex offending:

  • The person who usually travels to countries with a lack of appropriate legislation to combat this crime, in order to abuse children and record the images;
  • The distributor of the material;
  • The consumer of the images.

Focusing on the consumers of child pornography, psychologists, social workers and other criminal behavior specialists face the challenge of working with this relatively new category of sex offenders. Do child pornography users share the same psychosocial characteristics as other types of sex offenders? Is there an association between the consumption of child pornography and child contact sex offenders? Are traditional treatment programs useful to work with them? What are the motivations behind this crime? The limited available evidence shows that it is a new phenomenon that requires specific intervention tools. According to Seto (2013), internet sex offenders show poor social skills and low self-esteem and tend to experience emotional loneliness. The combination of negative emotions, impulsivity and sexual deviance results in the consumption of abusive images.

The article explains the most relevant features of internet sex offending, including a brief reference to the Spanish legislation, and overviews the existing therapeutic approaches to these offenders. In this regard, there is not an extensive offer of therapeutic programs for internet sex offenders as most countries apply the same programs as for contact sex offenders. There are some interesting online initiatives that allow internet users approach their problem by reading and reflecting on materials about internet sex offending and the consequences of child abuse, among others. These initiatives are linked to the preventive approach that some jurisdictions are promoting, based on the assumption that there should be community resources accessible to persons with sexual interest on children. These resources could help these people accept and face their problem as well as prevent sex offending. The article also explains the program created by the Spanish Prison and Probation System in 2015 called Out of the Net (Fuera de la Red). It is a 10-month psychosocial program for internet sex offenders structured in three phases: an individual motivation for change phase, a group treatment phase –that approaches the main dynamic risk factors for this category of offenders-, and an individual follow-up phase. The program was built based on the Good Lives Model (Ward and Gannon, 2006), the Risk, Needs and Responsivity Model (Andrews and Bonta, 2006), and also considers specific theoretical models for sex offending, such as the Self-regulation Model of Sexual Offending (Ward and Hudson, 1998), the Pathways Model of Child Sexual Offending (Ward and Siegert, 2002) and the Motivation-Facilitation Model of Sexual Offending (Seto, 2013).

Click on the link to read the full article Child Pornography on the Internet

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