“We’re not allowed to have experienced trauma. We’re not allowed to go through the grieving process” - Exploring the indirect harms associated with Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) offending and its impacts on non-offending family members

Rachel Armitage, Nadia Wager, Dawn Wibberley, Lara Hudspith, Victoria Gall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Online child sexual abuse encompasses a range of offences including the accessing, downloading, sharing and creating of images of child sexual abuse, often referred to as Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM). CSAM consumption has increased exponentially, and the lockdowns implemented as a response to COVID-19 have exacerbated this problem. CSAM offenders are more likely than other sex offenders to be married, to have children and to live with a partner and child(ren). Policy, practice and research has largely considered these families within the context of their protective properties, with little consideration for the individual and collective harms that they experience, and their unique support needs. Using data from 20 interviews with family members of those convicted of CSAM offences in the UK, we propose seven key elements that characterise the impacts of CSAM offending on non-offending family members. We categorise these as: 1) Disenfranchised Grief; 2) Ambiguous Loss; 3) Ontological Assault; 4) Contamination by Causal Responsibility; 5) Wall of Silence; 6) No-Win Situation, and 7) Burden of Responsibility. We propose policy and practice responses to minimise these harms.
Original languageEnglish
JournalVictims and Offenders
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 19 Jan 2023

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