Child sexual abuse material

Child sexual abuse material

Child sexual abuse material is visual material portraying a sexual act involving a child. The manufacture, distribution and possession of this type of material is a criminal offence.

Child sexual abuse material is essentially a form of hands-off sexual violence, since the perpetrator – the person in possession of child sexual abuse material, for example – has not necessarily assaulted the child physically. Nevertheless, child sexual abuse material is very harmful to a child. The visual material also sustains the subculture that promotes physical sexual violence against children. In addition, the sexual acts depicted often constitute a form of physical sexual violence. In that case, the victim of child sexual abuse material is also a victim of the hands-on sexual violence committed by the person who produced the images, who is then guilty of both hands-off and hands-on sexual violence. The fact that visual material showing the physical sexual violence exists – and as a rule is circulated via Internet nowadays – adds an extra dimension to the victimization of the child, since the child has to learn to live with the knowledge of the permanent existence of the visual material in which he or she figures as a sex object.

The sexual acts portrayed do not by definition constitute a form of physical sexual violence. For example, a child might take a nude ‘selfie’. Producing and distributing this type of material is referred to as ‘sexting’. Sexting can be voluntary, where the child makes the photo for a partner in a loving relationship, for example, but it can also be involuntary. In principle, voluntary sexting is not a criminal offence in the Netherlands.