Online sexual abuse

Online sexual abuse

Ensure your children know they can get help at any time and find out more about some of the things you can do to support them to be safer.

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Sexual abuse on video, live streaming and images

Video functions were once novelty, now they are integrated into almost every social media platform. Live streaming, or ‘going live’, has become more and more popular with children and young people. Whilst it can be a fun way for them to socialise and express themselves, children and young people can be sexually abused on these platforms. This is known as ‘non-contact’ or online sexual abuse and can be just as harmful as 'contact' sexual abuse.

The impact of online sexual abuse

Sexual abuse that takes place completely or partly online:

● can make a child or young person feel powerless or that there is no escape from the abuse as technology is part of their everyday life and used in safe spaces, such as their bedroom, home or school.

● can involve offenders threatening to share photos or videos to keep control over a child. These threats can make it difficult for a child to feel the abuse has come to an end as they fear that images will be out there forever

● can make children feel they are to blame for sending images, even if their actions were directed by the offender

● can cause psychological problems in the same way as contact abuse, such as nightmares, flashbacks, phobias, depression, anxiety or self-harm

Concerned about a child?

If you have concerns that a child is being sexually abused online, you should report your concerns to the police. If you have concerns that a child is at immediate risk of harm, you should call 999.

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How does this happen?

In cases of online sexual abuse, children may never meet the offender face to face, with all abuse taking place over the internet - via images, webcam or live streaming. Or, the abuse may begin online but lead to a face to face meeting or contact (in person) abuse. Offenders trick or force a young person to share a sexual image, strip or perform sexual acts on webcam or live streaming platforms. They may do this by:

Relationship building - grooming the child, building a relationship with them in which the child feels love or loyalty to the offender.

‘Catfishing’ – creating a fake identity to target a victim for abuse. This could include using fake profile phots and pretending to be the same age as the child, building a friendship or relationship.

Getting personal - using information the young person has shared, such as their sexuality, personal problems or family difficulties, against the young person, to get them to go on live video or share a sexual image.

Making threats - once they have an image or video they may use it to threaten them, telling the child that if they don’t do what they say, they will share the image or video online.

Children can then feel trapped and forced to do whatever the offender wants. This can start a cycle of abuse, with offenders making increasing demands for the children to appear on video and perform sexual acts.



Online sexual abuse is never the child’s fault; it is always the fault of the offender, who has committed a serious sexual crime.

Children who have been abused online need you to listen, believe them and support them.