*Machine Translation
Sparks in the Dark » CSAE Response » What is CSAE?

A global problem needing a global response

Children, anywhere in the world, can become victims of sexual abuse and exploitation. This is a horrific episode in a person's life and often causes long-term trauma. The threat of abuse is not only posed by strangers but more often by someone close to the child, such as relatives, peers and close family.

The statistics of sexual crimes against children are growing at an alarming rate and modern technologies are exacerbating the challenges. Society needs to action to protect children from harm.

Holistic Approach

The challenges to be addressed require a more holistic, whole-system response. It is imperative that we utilise all avenues available to maximise changes for positive impact. We must not only focus on law enforcement’s efforts, but also tackle the issues from a legislative and legal perspective and put barriers in place that increase child safety. Likewise, we must work to better understand the risk factors leading to the perpetration of child sexual abuse, and provide improved access to support for those at risk of offending. Similarly, it is critical that victims and survivors of abuse are heard, and that new approaches consider their needs.

Through recognition of the scale of the problems, we can proactively take steps to protect children. We must also ensure we remove the stigma of talking about the issues to help encourage people coming forward to report abuse but also to help motivate those with concerning thoughts towards children to step up and seek help.

Child sexual abuse can be preventable. Let’s take action to protect children.

What you should know

Across the globe, up to 35% of girls and 21% of boys experience sexual violence before their 18th birthday. [Source]

At any given time, an estimated 750,000 people are looking to connect with children for sexual purposes online, posing a huge danger to the 800 million children that are actively using social media. [Source]

In 2022, NCMEC’s CyberTipline received more than 32 million reports of suspected child sexual exploitation. This number grows each year. [Source]

60% of online abuse cases involved a perpetrator likely known to the child - Disrupting Harm [Source]

What CSAE is

“Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation” is a term used for the broad spectrum of sexual crimes committed against children. This includes causing a child to witness sexual activities or sexual abuse, engaging in sexual activities with a child, and coercing, forcing, or threatening a child into sexual activities with a third party. It also includes viewing, sharing and taking sexually explicit materials of children.



From 2020 to 2022 there was an increase of 360% in ‘self-generated’ sexual material of 7-10 year old children (Source)

These crimes can be committed without explicit force. Moreover, if the child has not reached the age of sexual consent, just the fact of the sexual activity taking place is sufficient to constitute abuse.

Often CSAM is so-called 'self-generated' after a child is coerced and blackmailed to produce it. However, there is also a lot of material which is voluntarily made but shared without consent. This is exploitation. We must emphasise the dangers and consequences of creating, sharing and using CSAM.

Forms of Child Sexual Abuse

  • Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM)

  • Intra-family abuse (against children)

  • Rape

  • Grooming

  • Child Trafficking

  • Live streaming CSA

  • Sextortion

Where Does it Happen?

Abuse often takes place in spaces familiar to children. This can be their homes or the homes of close relatives. It also happens in schools or different places where they learn and play. Other vital spaces to monitor are virtual ones, such as the internet, social media, gaming platforms, etc. There is a need for improved education about the threats of the internet and to create safe online environments. Close collaboration is necessary with education bodies to ensure the correct resources are provided and signposted.

What CSAM is

Child Sexual Abuse Material” or “Child Sexual Exploitation Material” is any material that depicts acts that are sexually abusive and/or exploitative to a child, including all photos and videos of a child who is engaged in sexual activity. These terms are recently being used to replace another term – “child pornography”, which is still used in legal documents.

We should avoid using the phrase “child pornography” as it is a term primarily used for materials depicting adults engaging in consensual sexual acts distributed to the public for their sexual pleasure, which is often legal. Children cannot give consent to be involved in such actions but are always abused and/or exploited. Therefore, the term “child pornography” does not do justice to the severity of the material.

Technology-facilitated CSAE

With the development of new technologies, there is an increase in generative AI used to create new images of child sexual abuse, which can be difficult to distinguish from real images. AI-generated CSAM can encourage the normalization of the abuse of children and can even be used to groom children and to commit sexual abuse.

Some of the types of CSAM

AI generated materials
Digital graphics

Learn more about proper terminology on ecpat.org: Luxembourg Guidelines

Key recommendations

Invest more in public health approaches, prioritising prevention - WeProtect Global Alliance: Global Threat Assessment 2023

Centre children’s rights and perspectives in designing interventions - WeProtect Global Alliance: Global Threat Assessment 2023

Implement globally aligned legislation - WeProtect Global Alliance: Global Threat Assessment 2023

Featured holistic actions


EU Funded

ALUNA – Child protection centred strategies to fight against sexual abuse and exploitation

ALUNA project proposes an innovative, ambitious, interdisciplinary, international child-protection-centered approach to fight against CSA/CSE crimes. ALUNA focuses on the three main components (Prevention, Investigation, and Victim Assistance) to establish a coordinated contribution with law enforcement agencies (LEAs) by developing an appropriate approach that is capable of addressing specific needs and providing protection to childhood.

Universidad Complutense de Madrid


EU Funded

HEROES – Novel Strategies to FigHt Child Sexual Exploitation and Human TRafficking Crimes and PrOtect thEir VictimS

The EU-funded HEROES project will explore how to use the latest technological advances and new strategies to prevent and combat CSA/CSE and human trafficking, investe the crimes and better protect victims. It will develop an ambitious, interdisciplinary, international and victim-centred approach. Its aim is to establish a coordinated contribution with law enforcement agencies to address the specific needs of victims and provide protection.

Universidad Complutense de Madrid - Spain


WeProtect – Global Alliance

The Alliance brings together experts from government, the private sector and civil society to protect children from sexual exploitation and abuse online.


EU Funded

GRACE – Global Response Against Child Exploitation

GRACE aims to equip European law enforcement agencies with advanced analytical and investigative capabilities to respond to the spread of online child sexual exploitation material.


EU Funded

LEAGUE – Limiting online sexual Exploitation and Abuse Gender based on Underaged boys by Educating experts

The LEAGUE (“Limiting online sexual Exploitation and Abuse Gender based on Underaged boys by Educating experts”) project aims at preventing online sexual abuse of boys aged 10-18.
Law and Internet Foundation (LIF)

We divided countering CSAE into three pillars: Prevention, Detection and Victim Support.

Check them out!

Funded by
the European Union

The website is funded through contributions from various projects, including several EU‑funded initiatives — you can find more details about them on the About Us page. However, the views and opinions expressed are those of the author(s) of specific publications only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union.

Neither the European Union nor any other granting authority can be held responsible for the content.

Subscribe to our newsletter
Stay up to date with important news.
© Sparks in the Dark

Get involved