How do people access sexual images of children?

The internet has huge benefits, from booking a holiday or making an appointment to taking a degree and staying connected with friends across the world. It has given us access to the kinds and varieties of information and entertainment that we could never have imagined only a few years ago and is a hugely positive force in many ways.

But there are also very real downsides, including the ‘Dark Web’ where harmful and extreme material, including illegal pornography and terrorism-related sites, can be found. Such material can also be found on websites that are much easier to access. Huge numbers of people access legal pornography sites and for many this is a gateway into more extreme, or maybe younger images, as they become bored by or desensitised to what they are viewing.

This simple model shows how easy it can be to access illegal material on the Internet and why it feels ‘safe’ to do this:

  • Accessibility – it is an easy and seemingly risk-free way to look at illegal pornographic material.
  • Affordability – although payment is still required for some ‘special interest’ material, most sexual images of children at all levels (including videos) can be accessed for free.
  • Anonymity – is the most powerful of these three offending enablers because it removes the deterrent effects of shame and fear of the consequences of someone knowing what you are doing.

Cooper’s Triple A Engine model (1998)

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