Article

Sexting or Self-Produced Child Pornography? The Dialogue Continues – Structured Prosecutorial Discretion within a Multidisciplinary Response

Authors:
To read the full-text of this research, you can request a copy directly from the author.

Abstract

The issues of “sexting” and “self-produced child pornography” (SPCP) have captured the attention of the media, courts, and state legislatures. A debate rages among advocates, policy makers, and reporters about how the law should address this activity. More than sixteen states have considered special legislation to address the problem and litigation has ensued. Lost in the debate are many realities including the complexity of the problem. This behavior implicates aspects of child development, child sexuality, child exploitation, teen dating violence, education, and parenting. While any deliberation about children and how the law should protect children is positive, sensationalism and oversimplification of this complex phenomenon undermine rationale debate. This article builds on the concept that the solution does not lie in the criminal law. Rather, it seeks to refocus the debate by suggesting that part of the solution depends on the formation of a comprehensive “smart” response. To accomplish this, society and its institutions (educational, social service, religious, law enforcement, legal, and civic) must come together and form a considered strategy that encourages prevention and a smart response when prevention fails. This article examines the role of prosecution, if any, in that “smart” response. This article argues against the use of blunt instruments that fail to recognize the complexity of SPCP. These extremes include “zero tolerance” policies, which in most cases do far more harm than good; decriminalization, which prevents a prosecutor from ever abusing his or her discretion, but also precludes juvenile court intervention even where the conduct is particularly egregious or the youth is in particular need of such; or an ad hoc approach by prosecutors which risks inconsistency, unfairness, and bias. This article proposes an alternative approach which balances the need for fairness with a need for flexibility: Structured Prosecutorial Discretion within a Multidisciplinary Approach. It is grounded in the recognition this complex problem covers a broad array of behaviors: from naïvely producing inappropriate images, to coercion, to maliciously distributing images of others virally. The proposed model calls for prosecutors, together with members of other disciplines, to accept a protocol whereby a variety of proposed factors are considered, in a systematic way, in evaluating cases. Structured Prosecutorial Discretion is characterized by a rejection of mandatory prosecution, exposure to sex offender registration, or adult criminal court, at one extreme, and decriminalization at the other. Structured Prosecutorial Discretion would allow juvenile court prosecution to remain as part of a multidisciplinary response for only the most egregious cases (such as vindictive distribution of the images, coercion of the victim, etc.) and only after the implementation of offender-based and offense-based protocols.This article stems from a 2007 article which was the first to discuss production and distribution of child pornography by juveniles themselves, prior to its revelation in mainstream media. The discussion here explores the new research since then and further examines the many novel suggestions offered by scholars since “sexting” entered the public conscience.

No full-text available

Request Full-text Paper PDF

To read the full-text of this research,
you can request a copy directly from the author.

... While there are cases of children being extorted into producing such media (Hainsworth & Sterling, 2014), others may engage in this behaviour as a result of online disinhibition (Suler, 2004), or simply in the course of normative adolescent social and developmental behaviour . Leary (2010) stresses the importance of the subject, pointing out that social problems that exist at the intersection of adolescence sex, technology and criminology require immediate investigation. This uploading of self-produced inappropriate material by Internet users, including many children and adolescents, is a growing phenomenon (Lenhart, 2009;Temple et al., 2012), resulting in youth engaging in increasingly risky behaviour (Leary, 2010;Wolak, Finkelhor, & Mitchell, 2011). ...
... Leary (2010) stresses the importance of the subject, pointing out that social problems that exist at the intersection of adolescence sex, technology and criminology require immediate investigation. This uploading of self-produced inappropriate material by Internet users, including many children and adolescents, is a growing phenomenon (Lenhart, 2009;Temple et al., 2012), resulting in youth engaging in increasingly risky behaviour (Leary, 2010;Wolak, Finkelhor, & Mitchell, 2011). This can even lead minors to produce and distribute images of themselves that are similar to child pornography (Quayle & Jones, 2011). ...
... Youth sexting has been described as the creating, sharing and forwarding of sexually suggestive nude or nearly nude images by minors (Lenhart, 2009). However, in many jurisdictions, senders are in danger of being charged with possession and distribution of child pornography (Leary, 2010), notwithstanding the fact that they are minors, and that the pictures are often of themselves (Zhang, 2010). A recent case in North Carolina highlighted issues in this area when a 17-year-old was prosecuted for having naked photos of himself on his phone (Brennan, 2015). ...
... 26 The potential for digital images to exist in perpetuity, however, as well as the psychological effects of the widespread distribution of such images, does present the potential for uniquely pernicious harm. 1,27 Further, although the exchange of images may begin in an experimental or friendly context, it may abruptly shift to an aggravated one-especially given the vicissitudes of adolescent relationships, the normative increase in sexual energy during this period, and potent neurodevelopmental influences. Thus, no matter how researchers categorize the behavior empirically or understand its epidemiology, the range of clinical considerations associated with youth-produced sexual images for individual adolescent patients may well evolve more rapidly than research can capture. ...
... Cases such as Alpert's have sparked a vigorous legal debate about the applicability of child pornography statutes to youth-produced sexual images. 27,46,47 A fundamental question in the jurisprudence of child pornography is the question of harm, and this question has become central in debates concerning the applicability of child pornography statutes to sexting. 1 In the U.S. Supreme Court's 1982 decision in New York v. Ferber, 48 the Court upheld a New York statute that banned the production and distribution of child pornography because preventing the sexual exploitation and abuse of children constitutes a critical government objective. With respect to sexting, debates are ongoing as to what, if any, harm is caused by youthproduced sexual images. ...
... Many assert that the primary psychological harm of a sexted image is similar to that of non-self-produced child pornography, because of the potential for circulation and its possible permanence 1 -what is referred to within child pornography jurisprudence as the perpetuity of victimization. 27 Although not well researched, clinical writings about the effects of child pornography on child victims, 50 as well as victim statements utilized in prosecuting child pornographers, 51 suggest long-standing traumatic effects for child victims. Part of this harm is due to the image's permanence and unknown reach, both of which may retraumatize victims and exponentially increase the helplessness and loss of control typically associated with child sexual abuse. ...
Article
This article will discuss the phenomenon of "sexting" (i.e., the exchange of sexually explicit images between adolescents via cell phone) in the United States, with a particular focus on clinical and legal implications. Although sexting is frequently discussed in the popular press, there is virtually no scientific literature available on this topic. In contrast, the legal literature has discussed sexting more comprehensively due to the implications of child pornography statutes for the social response to involved youth. This article will consider sexting from a clinical and legal perspective, and recommend ways to understand and address this practice clinically with adolescent patients.
... Like Connecticut, 23 other States have created either age based affirmative defences for child pornography/child abuse material offences; sexting specific laws or minor offences within pre-existing statutes involving the possession or dissemination of images of minors. Despite detailed legal critiques of how youth sexting should or should not be criminalised (Bailey and Hannah 2011;Leary 2010;Lee et al. 2013;Sherman 2011), there is a dearth of literature examining the impact of these reforms beyond their conceptual promise (cf. Jones 2018;Walsh et al. 2013). ...
... In these cases, the most common charges were child pornography felony offences (Wolak and Finkelhor 2011). Numerous criminologists and legal scholars have critiqued this phenomenon as a misapplication of a law designed to prosecute adult perpetrators with a prurient sexual interest in children (Arcabascio 2009;Bailey and Hanna 2011;Day 2010;Forbes 2011;Hiffa 2011;Kushner 2013;Leary 2010;Nunziato 2012;Richards and Calvert 2009;Ryan 2010;Wood 2009), a contradiction of the protective aims of this legislation (Day 2010, 72) and a clear indication that the law should change. ...
... Secondly, while the statute refers to voluntary distribution, it may not account for the subtler practices of coercion which shape image exchange, thus rendering young people criminally culpable for coercive strategies common within dating violence. Indeed, images are often produced and shared as a result of coercion (Jones 2018;Leary 2010;McGlynn et al. 2017) and young women are often victims of coercion and sextortion (Wolak et al. 2018) and produce images in a context of wider social pressure (Klettke et al. 2014). As such, this statute produces a context where a 17-year-old who coerces and possesses images from a 13-year-old could be analogous to a 15-year-old consensually selfproducing an image and sending it to another 15-year-old. ...
Article
Full-text available
In 2010, Connecticut implemented an offence prohibiting minors from engaging in sexting. This legislation was part of a range of reforms across the United States aiming to better tailor the criminal law’s response to youth sexting by distinguishing sexting from child abuse material. Drawing from submissions to the Connecticut General Assembly’s Sexting Bill, media reports and recent ‘sexting’ cases, this article adopts a feminist perspective and examines the justifications for and implications of this sexting statute. It argues that while aiming to create a distinction between child abuse material and sexting through a ‘lesser’ offence, these paternalistic reforms are informed by some of the same logics shaping child pornography/child abuse material law. Therefore, this statute is situated on a continuum of paternalistic legislation which utilises the constitutive expressive function of the criminal law to register anxieties about young people’s sexual and technological practices. As a result, this statute conflates victims and perpetrators of image based sexual abuses and fails to meet its deterrent and protective aims.
... When exploring this behavior, it is important to recognize that many youth receive unwanted sexts but a portion of teens are willing participants in the exchange of the material (Ringrose, Gill, Livingstone, & Harvey, 2012). Regardless of whether a sext is wanted or unwanted, many state statutes treat the distribution of sexually oriented pictures/videos of anyone under the age of 18 as a criminal offense (Gillespie, 2011;Leary, 2010). Oftentimes, this subjects teenagers to child pornography laws, but a recent legal trend is to handle sexting as a status offense (Sherman, 2011;Szymialis, 2010). ...
... Oftentimes, this subjects teenagers to child pornography laws, but a recent legal trend is to handle sexting as a status offense (Sherman, 2011;Szymialis, 2010). From a legal perspective, it is plausible to consider teens who receive sexual images/videos via cell phone as victims, but this label is difficult to apply to teens who willingly receive sexts. 1 In any event, both consensual and nonconsensual sexting is appropriately categorized as socially deviant because a majority of teens do not send or receive sexts and most states have some type of legal statute used to deter the behavior (Leary, 2010). The nonconsensual reception of sexts would not only involve exposure to deviant behavior but could also be classified as a form of victimization. ...
... Although the term sexting can include sexual texts or messaging on social media platforms, most concern surrounds the transmission of sexual images/videos of minors via cell phone given the ease of dissemination and frequency of cell phone use among adolescents Rice et al., 2012;Strassberg et al., 2013;Temple et al., 2012;Wolak et al., 2012). The actual nature of sexting can involve behaviors such as an adolescent sending a nude picture/video of him/ herself or forwarding such material of another minor via cell phone to another individual (Leary, 2010). ...
Article
Full-text available
Increased cell phone use among adolescents has created new opportunities for deviance and victimization in recent years. One teenage cell phone−based behavior that has received increased attention from a variety of sources including public health researchers, parents, and law enforcement is “sexting” (i.e., a minor receiving sexually explicit photos or videos of another adolescent or adult via cell phone or sending such material to another teenager). Research has revealed that sexting is a risky form of adolescent deviance that is linked with a host of potential negative health consequences (e.g., risky sexual behavior and drug use) and legal ramifications. Despite the importance of the issue, research exploring the risk factors associated with exposure to sexts is virtually nonexistent. Using telephone interview data from a representative sample of adolescents aged 12 to 17 years, the present study applies routine activity theory to explain the receiving of sexts. The results confirm expectations that both exposure-based (e.g., use of a cell phone during school hours) and supervision-based (i.e., school cell phone rules and family cell phone plan) routine cell phone activities are associated with receiving sexts. Overall, the study extends the generality of routine activity theory to teenage sexting, highlights the utility of examining domain-specific routine activity indicators, and offers one of the first theoretically informed analyses concerning the factors associated with adolescent sexting.
... Child pornography has changed, it would appear that industrial and technological advances have impacted on availability, photography, printing and its distribution via the Internet (Taylor & Quayle, 2003;Ropelato, 2006;Bourke & Hernandez, 2009). New issues are arising with regard to pornographic images of children online, recent reports from professionals in the field highlight a disturbing trend; self-produced child pornography, that is explicit images produced by children (Leary, 2010). Offenders may be increasingly moving online given the increasingly restricted 'real world' access to children, this a cause for concern as some parents lack the necessary digital skills to safeguard their children (Byron, 2008). ...
... The images are generated in a number of ways such as scanning, uploading, hidden cameras, domestic sexual abuse, commercial images, child generated responding to sexual demands of others, and activities initiated by children themselves, a recent development and a cause of serious concern (Quayle 2010). Leary (2010) has reported that 'sexting' and 'self-produced child pornography' is a complex problem ranging from naively produced images, to coercion, to the malicious viral distribution of images. The U.S National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy survey (N.C.P.T.U.P, 2009) reported that 1 in 5 teens (aged 13 to 19) have sent or posted online nude or semi nude pictures or videos of themselves, additionally 15% of teens surveyed (N= 1,280) who sent or posted nude/semi nude images of themselves say they did so to someone they only knew online. ...
... Childhood difficulties were also reported by Webb et al. (2007). Given reports of self generated child pornography and 'sex play' online (Leary, 2010), and the association between childhood sexual experience and adult abusive behaviour Webb et al., 2007), research should be undertaken to predict the likely impact of technology facilitated and accelerated sex play in children, and its impact on future sex offending. ...
Research
Full-text available
Child sexual abuse, a theoretical model of types of offenders
... While there are cases of children being extorted into producing such media (Hainsworth & Sterling, 2014), others may engage in this behaviour as a result of online disinhibition (Suler, 2004), or simply in the course of normative adolescent social and developmental behaviour . Leary (2010) stresses the importance of the subject, pointing out that social problems that exist at the intersection of adolescence sex, technology and criminology require immediate investigation. This uploading of self-produced inappropriate material by Internet users, including many children and adolescents, is a growing phenomenon (Lenhart, 2009;Temple et al., 2012), resulting in youth engaging in increasingly risky behaviour (Leary, 2010;Wolak, Finkelhor, & Mitchell, 2011). ...
... Leary (2010) stresses the importance of the subject, pointing out that social problems that exist at the intersection of adolescence sex, technology and criminology require immediate investigation. This uploading of self-produced inappropriate material by Internet users, including many children and adolescents, is a growing phenomenon (Lenhart, 2009;Temple et al., 2012), resulting in youth engaging in increasingly risky behaviour (Leary, 2010;Wolak, Finkelhor, & Mitchell, 2011). This can even lead minors to produce and distribute images of themselves that are similar to child pornography (Quayle & Jones, 2011). ...
... Youth sexting has been described as the creating, sharing and forwarding of sexually suggestive nude or nearly nude images by minors (Lenhart, 2009). However, in many jurisdictions, senders are in danger of being charged with possession and distribution of child pornography (Leary, 2010), notwithstanding the fact that they are minors, and that the pictures are often of themselves (Zhang, 2010). A recent case in North Carolina highlighted issues in this area when a 17-year-old was prosecuted for having naked photos of himself on his phone (Brennan, 2015). ...
Article
Full-text available
Contemporary news headlines seem to play regular host to treatments of one form of cybercrime or another, whether it be fraud, hacking, malware, piracy or child abuse material online. In this paper, the meaning of that term is unpacked, social impact is considered and possible future developments are discussed. Given the pervasive and profound influence of the Internet, it is important to acknowledge that in terms of criminology, what happens online can impact on the real world and vice versa. Consequently, real-world and cyber social impacts in relation to cybercrime will be examined.
... Overall, arrest is not typical in cases with no adults involved. Pediatrics 2012;129: [1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9] Sexual images produced and disseminated by youth, or what has come to be called "youth sexting," have prompted considerable worry and controversy among law enforcement, public health officials, pediatricians, and psychologists. To some, the concern is that young people are adding unknowingly to the already daunting supply of illegal online child pornography and compromising futures with images that could be permanently available to colleges and employers. ...
... Others are concerned that youth are being charged with serious sex crimes and placed on sex offender registries for impulsive teenage indiscretions. 1,2 Furthermore, pediatricians may be faced with questions about sexting from young people and their parents. ...
Article
Full-text available
To examine characteristics of youth sexting cases handled by police and their outcomes in response to clinical and other concerns about the risks of sexting behavior. Mail surveys were sent to a stratified national sample of 2712 law enforcement agencies followed by detailed telephone interviews with investigators about a nationally representative sample of sexting cases handled by police during 2008 and 2009 (n = 675). The cases involved "youth-produced sexual images" that constituted child pornography under relevant statutes according to respondents. US law enforcement agencies handled an estimated 3477 cases of youth-produced sexual images during 2008 and 2009 (95% confidence interval: 3282-3672). Two-thirds of the cases involved an "aggravating" circumstance beyond the creation and/or dissemination of a sexual image. In these aggravated cases, either an adult was involved (36% of cases) or a minor engaged in malicious, non-consensual, or abusive behavior (31% of cases). An arrest occurred in 62% of cases with an adult involved, in 36% of the aggravated youth-only cases, and in 18% of the "experimental" cases (youth-only and no aggravating elements). Most of the images (63%) were distributed by cell phone only and did not reach the Internet. Sex offender registration applied in only a few unusual cases. Many of the youth sexting cases that come to the attention of police include aggravating circumstances that raise concerns about health and risky sexual behavior, although some cases were relatively benign. Overall, arrest is not typical in cases with no adults involved.
... In terms of the scope of this article, some consideration is given to what has been termed "self-produced child pornography" (Leary, 2010, p. 491). However, the discussion does not encompass situations where young people produce and send images of themselves via cell phones, which is a form of "sexting" that is in itself a developing area of concern (see Karaian, 2012;Leary, 2007Leary, , 2010. 1 ...
... For an explanation of the overlap between sexting and self-produced CEM, seeLeary (2010). ...
Article
Literature to date has treated as distinct two issues (a) the influence of pornography on young people and (b) the growth of Internet child pornography, also called child exploitation material (CEM). This article discusses how young people might interact with, and be affected by, CEM. The article first considers the effect of CEM on young victims abused to generate the material. It then explains the paucity of data regarding the prevalence with which young people view CEM online, inadvertently or deliberately. New analyses are presented from a 2010 study of search terms entered on an internationally popular peer-to-peer website, isoHunt. Over 91 days, 162 persistent search terms were recorded. Most of these related to file sharing of popular movies, music, and so forth. Thirty-six search terms were categorized as specific to a youth market and perhaps a child market. Additionally, 4 deviant, and persistent search terms were found, 3 relating to CEM and the fourth to bestiality. The article discusses whether the existence of CEM on a mainstream website, combined with online subcultural influences, may normalize the material for some youth and increase the risk of onset (first deliberate viewing). Among other things, the article proposes that future research examines the relationship between onset and sex offending by youth.
... Additionally, the subject may use a mobile phone to post the image to a social networking website like Facebook or MySpace (McBeth, 2010). Leary (2007Leary ( , 2010 has referred to this material as "self-produced child pornography". Self-produced child pornography is images that possess the following criteria: they meet the legal definition of child pornography and were originally produced by a minor with no coercion, grooming, or adult participation whatsoever. ...
... The definition does not focus exclusively on the young person who makes the image but also those, "juveniles in the distribution chain who may coerce production, or later possess, distribute, or utilize such images" (p 492). Leary (2010) highlights that the term sexting has been used variously to describe: one minor sending one picture to a perceived significant other; a minor taking and/or distributing pictures of him/herself and others engaged in sexually explicit conduct; a minor extensively forwarding or disseminating a nude picture of another youth without his/her knowledge; a minor posting such pictures on a web site; an older teen asking (or coercing) another youth for such pictures; a person impersonating a classmate to "dupe" and or blackmail other minors into sending pictures; and, adults sending pictures or videos to minors or possessing sexually explicit pictures of juveniles, adults sending sexually suggestive text or images to other adults. These are all different activities, only some of which would-be deemed illegal in many jurisdictions (Quayle and Sinclair, in press). ...
Article
This paper addresses commonalities between two different forms of exploitation of young people – child abuse images and online solicitation and radicalisation. A number of areas of similarity are identified, and the implications of these commonalities are discussed. The role of social networking as a critical factor is particularly explored.
... They can be sent using any device that allows the sharing of media and messages, including mobiles, tablets, laptops and so forth. Leary (2009) has described 'sexting images' as 'self-produced child pornography,' in cases where images are produced without coercion or grooming. Livingstone and Mason (2015) reported that girls are under greater pressure to send 'sexts' and face harsher judgements when the images are shared without consent. ...
... There is also the risk posed by practices such as the sharing of self-generated sexual images either online via channels like social media or in an offline medium such as text message (Hollis & Belton, 2017). This may be part of 'sexting' where the young person produces these images as part of an intimate relationship (Leary, 2009) or this could occur via online solicitation or grooming (Quayle & Newman, 2015). Despite this being a common form of harmful sexual behaviour for adolescents, research into this practice is scarce (Hollis & Belton, 2017). ...
... By using the video streaming feature of VoIP applications, live child abuse images are produced and sometimes also sold for profit. Online grooming (Whittle, Hamilton-Giachritsis, Beech, & Collings, 2013), self-produced child pornography/sexting (Leary, 2009) and sexual extortion (Açar, 2016) are the prime and most common examples of which VoIP technologies have been used for non-commercial purposes. Non-commercial types of live streaming of child abuse don't have a deep and tight relationship with child prostitution. ...
Article
Full-text available
Webcam child prostitution is an emerging form of online child sexual abuse which the victim simply sells his/her lives sexual images through Voice-over-IP (VoIP) applications. Although it doesn't directly create some negative effects of traditional child prostitution like sexually transmitted diseases, it may provide future offenders and victims to the traditional crimes such as child prostitution and child sex tourism. Therefore, appropriate and effective prevention strategies for this heinous act should be introduced accordingly. In this respect, this article discuss the efficiency of current methods of detection and propose some futuristic methods such as metadata and content data analysis of VoIP communications by the private sector and the use of fully automated chatbots for undercover operations. The applicability of such new methods in real life heavily relies on legal amendments and requires further research on technical aspects in particular.
... Additionally, there has been a reported increase in the number of adolescents who are engaging in what is seen as a new phenomena of "sexting" whereby adolescents are taking photos of themselves and distributing them . These self-generated images (Leary, 2010) are easily uploaded onto the Internet and thus contributing to the increase in availability of IIOC. ...
Article
Little is known about the trends of indecent images of children (IIOC) offences, as UK criminal justice figures are unavailable within official crime data. This study aims to explore the rates of conviction and the relationship between IIOC offences and child sexual abuse offences from 2005/2006 to 2012/2013. The results indicated a continuing increase in offences of take, permit, distribute IIOC, rape of a child under 13, sexual activity of child under 16 and abuse of children through prostitution or pornography. Six out of a possible 17 correlations were significant, with the strongest correlation found between take, make, distribute IIOC and rape of a female under 13. Explanations for the findings are discussed and the utility of comprehensive prevalence figures for different stakeholders involved in addressing this crime issue.
... There are various intentions and motives for producing child pornography. Leary (2010) cites various circumstances, feeling that they should be tackled differently, including: taking nude pictures of someone without their knowledge; sending nude pictures on without the Journal of Social Welfare & Family Law 9 original sender knowing it; and forcing another to make such pictures. Leary is right in questioning whether all these 'offenders' should be treated the same way. ...
Article
Full-text available
An example of a recurrent issue in communities is the legal system's struggle to process problems of young offenders. The main focus of this article is juvenile suspects of crimes considering child pornography. Two topics are discussed: the nature of these crimes and the characteristics of suspects. An analysis of 159 Dutch police files on child pornography shows that almost a quarter of the suspects are under 24 years of age. Of that group, 35% is younger than 18 years. Often, these are youngsters who take sexualised pictures and/or make videos of themselves and/or each other. If this material is distributed via the Internet it becomes a matter for law enforcement agencies. This conclusion forms the base of the Discussion section of this article. Should law enforcement agencies settle these cases in an informal manner? Or should suspects be prosecuted in order to prevent certain types of child pornography from ceasing to be punishable?
... The sexting trend and ubiquity of mobile phones with high quality cameras has changed the dynamics of victimization. Historically, all child pornography represented primary victimization (the sexual abuse or direct exploitation of a child) as well as secondary victimization (the continuance of sexual abuse through repeated distribution and viewing), though self-generated child pornography has altered that pattern (Leary, 2009). Specifically, there may be no primary victimization with self-generated child pornography, excepting cases of coercion or sextortion (Patchin & Hinduja, 2020), and the percentage of self-generated child pornography is growing (Internet Watch Foundation, 2020). ...
Thesis
Full-text available
BACKGROUND Modern Child Sexual Exploitation Material (CSEM) offences predominantly occur within a technological ecosystem. The behaviours and cognitions of CSEM offenders influence, and are influenced by, their choice of facilitative technologies that form that ecosystem. OBJECTIVES This thesis will review the prior research on cognitive distortions present in and technology usage by CSEM offenders, and present a new theory, Lawless Space Theory (LST), to explain those interactions. The cognitions and technical behaviours of previously convicted CSEM offenders will be examined in a psychosocial context and recommendations for deterrence, investigative, and treatment efforts made. PARTICIPANTS AND SETTING Data was collected using an online survey collected from two samples, one from a reference population of the general public (n=524) and one from a population of previously convicted CSEM offenders (n=78), both of which were composed of adults living in the United States. METHODS Two reviews were conducted using a PRISMA methodology - a systematic review of the cognitive distortions of CSEM offenders and an integrative review of their technology usage. A theoretical basis for LST was developed, and then seven investigations of the survey data were conducted evaluating the public’s endorsement of lawless spaces; the public’s perceptions of CSEM offenders; the self-perceptions of CSEM offenders; the suicidality of the offender sample; the use of technology and countermeasures by the offender sample; the collecting and viewing behaviours of the offender sample; and the idiographic profiles of the offender sample. RESULTS The reviews found that the endorsement of traditional child contact offender cognitive distortions by CSEM offenders was low, and that they continued to use technology beyond its normative lifecycle. LST was developed to explain these behaviours, and the view of the Internet as generally lawless was endorsed by the reference and offender samples. The public sample showed biased beliefs that generally overestimated the prevalence of, and risk associated with, CSEM offending when compared to the offender sample. Offenders were found to have viewed investigators as having a lack of understanding and compassion, and they exhibited very high suicidal ideation following their interaction with law enforcement. Offenders exhibited similar technical abilities and lower technophilia than the reference sample, chose technologies to both reduce psychological strain and for utility purposes, and many exhibited cyclic deletions of their collections as part of a guilt/shame cycle. CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS Understanding CSEM offenders’ technological behaviours and cognitions can inform more effective investigative, deterrence, and treatment efforts. Law enforcement showing compassion during investigations may generate more full disclosures while facilitating offender engagement with resources to reduce suicidality. Deterrence efforts focused on establishing capable guardianship and reducing perceived lawlessness provide the potential to reduce offending. Treatment of criminogenic needs for the majority of CSEM offenders is not supported by evidence, but noncriminogenic treatment warrants broader consideration.
... The sexting trend and ubiquity of mobile phones with high quality cameras has changed the dynamics of victimization. Historically, all child pornography represented primary victimization (the sexual abuse or direct exploitation of a child) as well as secondary victimization (the continuance of sexual abuse through repeated distribution and viewing), though self-generated child pornography has altered that pattern (Leary, 2009). Specifically, there may be no primary victimization with self-generated child pornography, excepting cases of coercion or sextortion (Patchin & Hinduja, 2020), and the percentage of self-generated child pornography is growing (Internet Watch Foundation, 2020). ...
Article
Full-text available
Understanding the public’s perceptions of child pornography helps identify gaps in awareness and knowledge, impacts legislative decision making, quantifies stigmatization, and provides a baseline for identifying differences between lay and offender populations for clinical purposes. This research provides a comprehensive public survey assessing these issues. An Internet-based sample of 524 adults (mean age = 47 years, 51% female) within the USA were asked about their understanding and beliefs related to child pornography and individuals who view child pornography. The questions covered three topic areas—general perceptions of child pornography, endorsement of child pornography beliefs, and opinions related to the legality of various forms of child pornography as well as the decision making related to sentencing and sex offender registration for child pornography consumers. The research found that the public viewed these offenses as more severe than most other crimes and that there was an overestimation by the public of risks related to recidivism and contact offending. Additionally, the research found that there was support for most of the current sentencing guidelines in the USA, including sex offender registration, and that there was limited support for treatment over incarceration.
... The concept of selfproduced child pornography, which can be considered a sub-branch of sexting, stands for obscene images taken and sent to others voluntarily by minors. Such materials are generally used for cyber bullying and revenge porn for the purpose of disgracing the victim in the eyes of his/her friends and family (Leary, 2009;Siegle, 2010). Vast majority of child abuse materials in SECC are made by the victim, and obtained by the abuser through various means. ...
Article
Full-text available
This paper examines Sexual Extortion of Children in Cyberspace (SECC), which has gained notoriety despite the fact that it has recently emerged, and is also considered one of the most significant online threats to children in 2015 Internet Organized Crime Threat Assessment (IOCTA) report of Europol. After the characteristics and frequently-observed modus operandi of SECC are described, the points of differentiation and overlap between SECC and other related concepts about online child sexual abuse will be examined. Then, the constituent elements of SECC will be identified and explained in detail; later, possible prevention strategies and research areas will be discussed individually for each one. However, whether SECC should be defined as a separate criminal act and the legal conditions of punishment in the current criminal law systems are completely ignored.
... Quayle and Taylor (2011) define sexual activities as sending one picture and or distributing pictures of oneself and others engaging in sexually explicit conduct. Leary (2010) defines sexual activities as sharing, forwarding or disseminating nude picture of another youth without his or her knowledge. Sexual activities are communicated across various mediums that include text messages, multimedia messaging service (MMS), smart phone, iPod and tablet. ...
Article
Full-text available
Internet has not only facilitated and eased the use of technology but has also allowed for greater access and unlimited dissemination of information and knowledge. Like a two-edge sword, when abused, technology could easily be harmful and detrimental to users, including youth. Youth is considered as one of the fragile groups easily affected by the negativity of technology. This is so because of youth exploratory instinct and high curiosity level towards their environment. Given this background, this study aims to investigate the impact of technology on youth sexual prevalence. The sexual prevalence investigated is sexual behaviour and pornography. By using a structured questionnaire on 1150 of youth in Malaysia, this study explores youth sexual prevalence using scoring method and regression analysis. The study finds that Malaysian youth sexual prevalence is at moderate level and that many technology-related activities statistically influences youth sexual prevalence.
... Soon after, Cox Communications (2009) and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children released survey results which found that 9% of young persons between 13 and 18 years had sent sexually suggestive text messages or emails with nude or nearly nude photos, while 17% had received such content. Since then, most sexting research has involved samples from particular middle or high schools (Rice et al., 2012(Rice et al., , 2014Strassberg, McKinnon, Sustaíta, & Rullo, 2013;Temple et al., 2012), at-risk youth (Houck et al., 2014), focus groups (Lippman & Campbell, 2014), or a combination of youth and young adults (e.g., Crimmins & Seigfried-Spellar, 2014;Delevi & Weisskirch, 2013;Hudson & Fetro, 2015;MTV-AP, 2009;Strohmaier, Murphy, & DeMatteo, 2014), limiting and sometimes muddying our understanding of the generalizable scope of sexting among minors (particularly relevant given the applicability of child pornography laws when any transmissions involve sexual images of those under the age of 18) (Crofts & Lee, 2013;Leary, 2009;Wastler, 2010;Zhang, 2010). ...
Article
Full-text available
Sexting is the sending or receiving of sexually explicit or sexually suggestive images or video, usually via mobile devices. Despite widespread public concern about these behaviors as they occur among adolescents, including potentially serious legal consequences, relatively little research has been done to estimate the frequency of sexting among middle and high school students. The current study contributes to this scant body of knowledge by reporting prevalence rates for sending and receiving sexually explicit images or video among a nationally representative sample of 5593 American middle and high school students. Overall, approximately 13% of students reported that they had sent a sext, while 18.5% had received a sext. About one-third of those who sext had done it just one time. Rates of asking for, being asked for, and sharing of sexts are also presented, and are broken down further by gender, sexual orientation, race, and age. Implications for preventing sexting behaviors with these results in mind are also discussed.
... To delineate consensual sexting behaviour between two adolescents, from 'traditional' CP involving an adult, proposed amendments to existing CP laws have ranged in punishment from moderate (e.g., Briggs, 2012;Thompson, 2014) to severe (e.g., Leary, 2009). While Barnes (2012) notes that punishment is required, he believes that detention is not a viable option. ...
Article
Full-text available
Video recording technology advancements and accessibility has been paralleled by a growth in selfproduced child pornography (SPCP). Although social and judicial attention has been given to instances of teenage sexting, Internet-based forms of SPCP, such as webcam/website sex tourism, have almost been ignored. While some of the proposed legislation reform has referenced video-based SPCP, the majority has focused on SPCP distributed through cellular phones; excluding that which is manifested online or through entrepreneurial efforts. The purpose of this article is to introduce nonsexting SPCP, using the case study of Justin Berry (in the United States), and to propose a broad punishment, education, and counseling response from youth criminal justice systems (YCJS). Recommendations are meant as a starting point, framed with multiple YCJS structures, the duality of victim and perpetrator, the justice and welfare approaches to juvenile justice, and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in mind.
... Quayle and Taylor (2011) define sexual activities as sending one picture and or distributing pictures of oneself and others engaging in sexually explicit conduct. Leary (2010) defines sexual activities as sharing, forwarding or disseminating nude picture of another youth without his or her knowledge. Sexual activities are communicated across various mediums that include text messages, multimedia messaging service (MMS), smart phone, iPod, and tablet. ...
... Others argue that teen sexting is fundamentally harmful, or could be, and that the State must protect teens from self-exploitation and limit the flow of pornography into the commercial market (Leary, 2010;Szymialis, 2010;Weins & Hiestand, 2009). The assumption is that sexts will eventually find their way into the child porn market, even if originally shared with or intended for other teens. ...
Article
The last decade has seen a rapid increase in the use of smartphones among young children and adolescents. One consequence of this phenomenon is sexting. Although researchers of sexting have yet to arrive at a single, cohesive definition for the behavior, it generally involves the transmission of text, pictures, or videos containing sexual material. Different definitions of the behavior have led to widely varying estimates of its prevalence, although some studies have documented relatively high rates of sexting among teenagers. As adolescence is the time period in people's lives where the psychological tasks of identity consolidation and the development of intimate relationships become primary, it is not surprising that many teens utilize sexting as one way of practicing skills associated with successful completion of these tasks. The criminal prosecution of sexting cases, then, raises many legal and ethical questions. Offenders may be prosecuted under state or federal child pornography laws or state-specific sexting laws. Sexting laws, particularly in instances of consensual sext exchange, call into question who they are meant to protect and from what. In this article we review the research on teen sexting, its prevalence, and its association with mental health problems; summarize legal responses to the behavior in the United States; and identify considerations for prosecutors and legal decision-makers facing sexting cases.
Article
The objective of this article is to present a thematic review of literature that pertains to the role of child sexual abuse images in online coercive and non-coercive relationships with adolescents, synthesize and contextualize current research on this topic, and identify some of the complexities in the self-production of sexual images by adolescents and their potential use by offenders. This review examines why there is a trend for child abuse image production to be increasingly associated with adolescent self-produced sexual images and how this may be related to individual coercion, as well as changing social and Internet contexts. Practitioners need to understand the technological and social affordances offered by the Internet, particularly in relation to the ability to produce sexual images, as part of a more ecological approach to understanding online abuse and exploitation.
Thesis
Full-text available
With consideration to how information technology has become embedded in our everyday lives, the activities of computer forensic specialists are becoming increasingly important in the field of criminal proceedings. The isolated specialist fields of previous times are becoming increasingly overlapped and the borders between them are often blurred. Currently, and even more so in the near future, computer forensic specialists are becoming essential in criminal proceedings in almost all forensic specialist fields. Those operating in the specialist field are only able to meet this challenge if their work, their profession has an appropriate scientific background. This basically includes knowledge of the prevailing legislative environment, use of internationally recognised methods and procedures, knowledge of the field’s international and domestic standards, and the use of the validated software and hardware components required for the implementation of the methods and procedures. The present study deals with each of the basic conditions listed, with the emphases determined by the author, which is manifested in the length and degree of detail of the section on the topic under discussion. Therefore, the essay presents merely a momentary picture of the current, yet changing, legislative environment, leaving space for the later insertion of the legislation to be finalised in the near future (e.g. the new act on criminal procedures), also providing a short historical and international outlook. The focus of this work is the specialist work of the computer forensic specialist and its scientific basis, which is also the most extensive independent part of the essay. It is here that the origins of the specialist field and the history of its science are discussed, as is its position within forensics and within the interdisciplinary field of other, larger areas of science. An investigation into the actual structure of the specialist field was performed via empirical research. The sources for this were the author’s own records of some three hundred cases, which, in addition to the legal requirements, have been supplemented with data assisting the purpose of the research and made suitable for detailed analysis. Although due to the features described above the research cannot be deemed to be representative, it still serves to identify the emphasis within the field, which helps to reveal the focus of the section on methodology.
Article
Sexual images have long been associated with sexual interest and behaviour with minors. The Internet has impacted access to existing content and the ability to create content which can be uploaded and distributed. These images can be used forensically to determine the legality of the behaviour, but importantly for psychiatry, they offer insight into motivation, sexual interest and deviance, the relationship between image content and offline sexual behaviour, and how they might be used in online solicitation and grooming with children and adolescents. Practitioners will need to consider the function that these images may serve, the motivation for their use and the challenges of assessment. This article provides an overview of the literature on the use of illegal images and the parallels with existing paraphilias, such as exhibitionism and voyeurism. The focus is on recent research on the Internet and sexual images of children, including the role that self-taken images by youth may play in the offending process.
Article
Full-text available
There is a growing body of research on sexually motivated online communication with minors that has been variously described as luring, grooming and solicitation. Evidence from US studies would suggest an increase in aggressive sexual solicitations, with adolescent girls being more likely to be targeted. Existing research has involved adolescent as well as offender populations, and has largely relied on surveys with young people, interviews and official record data with offenders and ethnographic work with police officers. There have also been a number of studies using chat log data between offenders and adults pretending to be children. In addition, while the use of sexual images has been noted in both offender and victim studies, this has not been critically examined. The present study is different as it used reports from the public to Cybertip.ca to make sense of the types of behaviour that alerted concerned adults, and occasionally young people, to make a report; information available about the young person; information about the suspect, and the interaction between the two. The results of this study show strong similarities with previous research in relation to both offender and victim populations. Implications are discussed in relation to the importance of reporting mechanisms, awareness raising with parents and the need to recognize sexual agency and resilience in many adolescents.
Article
There is an increased availability of online child abuse images, a proportion of which is created by young people in coercive and non- coercive relationships (sexting). Objectives This Delphi study with adolescents as "experts" who had taken and shared sexual images, was conducted to identify appropriate responses to sexting where images are shared without consent and identify indicators of distress and ways to facilitate disclosure when the sharing of images causes anxiety or is associated with further victimization. Participants and setting 124 adolescents from the United Kingdom completed an online survey. All self-identified as taking and sharing sexual images of themselves. 45 provided full survey responses (73% female; mean age 16.24) and of these 23 completed the second round. Recruitment was through social media and local schools. Methods An online two-round Delphi method was completed using a vignettes-based questionnaire. To assess consensus, a defined average percentage agreement (80% cut-off) was used. Qualitative content analysis identified relevant themes in responses to Round 1 which informed the Round 2 items. Results In the first round 60 items were identified that endorsed views of problem identification, facilitation of disclosure, proportionate responding, and problem management. Overall, participants agreed that the clear majority of statements identified in Round 2 were important and thus achieved consensus. Conclusions This study represents a novel and inclusive approach through the formation of an expert panel of young people. These views may inform appropriate victim-centered management of cases where images have been shared without permission.
Article
As the digital generation grows up, societies' norms are being challenged by changing views of what is acceptable communication. Young people live much of their lives online: texting and ‘sexting’ their thoughts and images to their intimates and strangers alike. These changes have challenged the legal structures committed to protecting society's youth. This paper explores the development of the law in the United States and Germany concerning sexualized text messages or ‘sexts’. It asks whether and under what conditions such communications are pornographic and represent a signal for prosecution or protection.
Article
Full-text available
While responses to non-consensual intimate image distribution (NCIID) often highlight criminal law remedies, little is known about how young people are choosing to respond to this act and whether they perceive legal intervention as a useful tool. Drawing from interviews with 10 teenagers and survey responses from 81 adult supporters, we provide insight into how young people perceive the supports available to them for responding to NCIID. We find young people may avoid seeking support from both the criminal justice system and adults in general due to fears of adult overreaction, victim blaming and shaming, and self/peer criminalization.
Article
This article examines demographic research on child pornography offenders and considers its utility for sentencing reform. It begins by tracing the history of the internet and federal possession law, detailing particularly how public and political panic about child pornography evolved within a growing fear of the internet itself. The article continues by surveying current demographic research on possession offenders. Drawing on this data and related research, the article considers what the literature can contribute to sentencing policy, simultaneously showcasing vast differences between the type of offender Congress intended to punish and those actually receiving the harsh punishment. Taken wholly, this article explains why child pornography guidelines represent a departure from the normal process of creating Federal Sentencing Guidelines; it tells how law succumbed to the forces of fear and stacked the scale against child pornography offenders.
Article
Concern over juvenile sexting behaviors has increased substantially over the last decade, leading to criminological inquiries of the correlates of sexting. Evidence suggests that sexting behavior is associated with one's level of self-control, such that individuals with low self-control are unable to constrain themselves from acting on opportunities to offend. Though self-control is correlated with sexting, few have considered the ways that situational opportunities associated with technology access and self-control influence one another. This study attempted to address this gap in the literature through an analysis of 1328 adolescents enrolled in secondary schools located in a large metropolitan region of South Australia. The findings from three binary logistic regression models illustrated that low self-control, and online opportunity factors were associated with sexting behaviors, though self-control was mediated by the inclusion of opportunity measures. The implications of this analysis for our understanding of criminological theory is discussed in detail.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any references for this publication.