Although the full extent and nature of the sexual exploitation of children is only beginning to be recognised, it is a problem of global significance that requires strong and effective responses. The extent to which the viewing of child exploitation material (CEM) is linked to involvement in producing such material, sharing it and using it to groom and then assault children is a key concern. Most such material is held online, and it is important to understand how offenders use the internet to access CEM and to groom children for sexual exploitation.
This exploratory study examines data relating to a sample of offenders convicted of online child sexual exploitation offences under Australian Commonwealth law, to determine how online forms of child sexual exploitation and offline child sexual exploitation, or contact offending, are related. The majority of offenders in this study appeared to commit only online offences, although in a minority of cases there was a connection between exploitative material, grooming and contact offending.
This study is an important early step in improving our understanding of offenders and points to the need for further assessment of the nature of online child sexual exploitation and its relationship to other forms of sexual and violent offences.