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Which dynamics make online child sexual abuse and cyberstalking more emotionally impactful: perpetrator identity and images?

NCJ Number
Child Abuse & Neglect Volume: 137 Dated: 2023
Date Published

This study of the emotional impact of online child sexual abuse and cyberstalking concludes that greater focus should be put on peer and acquaintance offenses, especially regarding the misuse of sexual images.


Online safety awareness and prevention need a larger focus on peer and acquaintance offenses, particularly around the misuse of sexual images. The migration of offenses against children to the online environment requires a revised understanding of how episode dynamics aggravate the harm. This study assesses the contribution of various online offense episode elements to the overall negative emotional impact. The sample comprised 2639 IPSOS KnowledgePanel members aged 18 to 28, 1215 of whom reported episodes of online sexual abuse or cyberstalking that occurred prior to the age of 18. The analysis was based on 2056 episodes with detailed follow-up information. Participants were recruited online and filled out online questionnaires about online sexual abuse and cyberstalking episodes, their characteristics, and the negative emotional impact (NEI) associated with each episode. NEI was derived from a factor analysis of 8 impact items. Higher negative emotional impact was associated with forms of sexual image misuse: non-consensual sharing, non-consensual taking and threatened sharing/sextortion. Peers made up a majority of offenders, and their impact was just as great as adult offenders. Known perpetrators, including intimate partners, also made up the largest proportion of offenders and their impact was just as great as online strangers or anonymous offenders. (Published Abstract Provided)

Date Published: January 1, 2023