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Psychological Perspectives of Virtual Child Sexual Abuse Material

Abstract

Virtual child sexual abuse material (VCSAM) has become a growing global concern amongst policy and practice professionals. This theoretical paper aimed to provide a discussion on the landscape for the types of virtual material and apply psychological perspectives to further our limited understanding of these offenders. When considering the landscape, the types of morphing were explored along with the issues that have resulted due to the advances in 3D software and hardware rendering, including difficulties distinguishing VCSAM from child sexual abuse material involving real children. Throughout the paper, logic is drawn from the strong theoretical basis of child sexual abuse material offenders, allowing for the application of theoretical perspectives, such as schemas, cognitive distortions, the person-situation interaction, and rational choice theory. This paper offers some preliminary foundations and insights in an attempt to better understand VCSAM offenders, while providing avenues for further research. Overall, this paper offers a valuable and timely resource for psychology and law enforcement disciplines, along with policy makers, at an international level.

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Notes

  1. The term ‘child pornography’ does not capture the harm caused to the victims. It is now acknowledged that the term ‘child sexual abuse material’ better captures this abuse.

  2. Logic is drawn from CSAM offenders because they differ in psychological and demographic characteristics compared with mixed offenders (those offenders who engage in both CSAM and contact child sexual offending) (Babchishin et al. 2011; Lee et al. 2012). Further, VCSAM images are often located alongside offenders’ collections of CSAM images involving real children (Northern Ireland Office 2007).

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Correspondence to Larissa S. Christensen.

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Christensen, L.S., Moritz, D. & Pearson, A. Psychological Perspectives of Virtual Child Sexual Abuse Material. Sexuality & Culture 25, 1353–1365 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12119-021-09820-1

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Keywords

  • Virtual child sexual abuse material
  • Pseudo pornography
  • Child exploitation material
  • Child sexual abuse material
  • Child pornography