The challenges of identifying and classifying child sexual abuse material

Julianne Kloess, Jessica Woodhams, Helen Whittle, Timothy D Grant, Catherine Hamilton-Giachritsis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

The aim of the present study was to (a) assess the reliability with which indecent images of children (IIOC) are classified as being of an indecent versus nonindecent nature, and (b) examine in detail the decision-making process engaged in by law enforcement personnel who undertake the difficult task of identifying and classifying IIOC as per the current legislative offense categories. One experienced researcher and four employees from a police force in the United Kingdom coded an extensive amount of IIOC (n = 1,212-2,233) to determine if they (a) were deemed to be of an indecent nature, and (b) depicted a child. Interrater reliability analyses revealed both considerable agreement and disagreement across coders, which were followed up with two focus groups involving the four employees. The first entailed a general discussion of the aspects that made such material more or less difficult to identify; the second focused around images where there had been either agreement (n = 20) or disagreement (n = 36) across coders that the images were of an indecent nature. Using thematic analysis, a number of factors apparent within IIOC were revealed to make the determination of youthfulness and indecency significantly more challenging for coders, with most relating to the developmental stage of the victim and the ambiguity of the context of an image. Findings are discussed in light of their implications for the identification of victims of ongoing sexual exploitation/abuse, the assessment and treatment of individuals in possession of IIOC, as well as the practice of policing and sentencing this type of offending behavior.
LanguageEnglish
Pages173-196
Number of pages24
JournalSexual Abuse
Volume31
Issue number2
Early online date1 Sep 2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2019

Fingerprint

Sexual Child Abuse
Law Enforcement
Sex Offenses
Police
Focus Groups
Decision Making
Research Personnel

Bibliographical note

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License (http://www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/) which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (http://www.uk.sagepub.com/aboutus/openaccess.htm).

Funding: EPSRC

Keywords

  • child pornography
  • child sexual abuse material
  • indecent images of children (IIOC)
  • Internet sexual offenses
  • online child sexual abuse

Cite this

Kloess, J., Woodhams, J., Whittle, H., Grant, T. D., & Hamilton-Giachritsis, C. (2019). The challenges of identifying and classifying child sexual abuse material. 31(2), 173-196. https://doi.org/10.1177/1079063217724768
Kloess, Julianne ; Woodhams, Jessica ; Whittle, Helen ; Grant, Timothy D ; Hamilton-Giachritsis, Catherine. / The challenges of identifying and classifying child sexual abuse material. 2019 ; Vol. 31, No. 2. pp. 173-196.
@article{d707ee1b88c44f0899022d10bb9467b4,
title = "The challenges of identifying and classifying child sexual abuse material",
abstract = "The aim of the present study was to (a) assess the reliability with which indecent images of children (IIOC) are classified as being of an indecent versus nonindecent nature, and (b) examine in detail the decision-making process engaged in by law enforcement personnel who undertake the difficult task of identifying and classifying IIOC as per the current legislative offense categories. One experienced researcher and four employees from a police force in the United Kingdom coded an extensive amount of IIOC (n = 1,212-2,233) to determine if they (a) were deemed to be of an indecent nature, and (b) depicted a child. Interrater reliability analyses revealed both considerable agreement and disagreement across coders, which were followed up with two focus groups involving the four employees. The first entailed a general discussion of the aspects that made such material more or less difficult to identify; the second focused around images where there had been either agreement (n = 20) or disagreement (n = 36) across coders that the images were of an indecent nature. Using thematic analysis, a number of factors apparent within IIOC were revealed to make the determination of youthfulness and indecency significantly more challenging for coders, with most relating to the developmental stage of the victim and the ambiguity of the context of an image. Findings are discussed in light of their implications for the identification of victims of ongoing sexual exploitation/abuse, the assessment and treatment of individuals in possession of IIOC, as well as the practice of policing and sentencing this type of offending behavior.",
keywords = "child pornography, child sexual abuse material, indecent images of children (IIOC), Internet sexual offenses, online child sexual abuse",
author = "Julianne Kloess and Jessica Woodhams and Helen Whittle and Grant, {Timothy D} and Catherine Hamilton-Giachritsis",
note = "This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License (http://www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/) which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (http://www.uk.sagepub.com/aboutus/openaccess.htm). Funding: EPSRC",
year = "2019",
month = "3",
day = "1",
doi = "10.1177/1079063217724768",
language = "English",
volume = "31",
pages = "173--196",
number = "2",

}

Kloess, J, Woodhams, J, Whittle, H, Grant, TD & Hamilton-Giachritsis, C 2019, 'The challenges of identifying and classifying child sexual abuse material' vol. 31, no. 2, pp. 173-196. https://doi.org/10.1177/1079063217724768

The challenges of identifying and classifying child sexual abuse material. / Kloess, Julianne ; Woodhams, Jessica ; Whittle, Helen; Grant, Timothy D; Hamilton-Giachritsis, Catherine.

Vol. 31, No. 2, 01.03.2019, p. 173-196.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

TY - JOUR

T1 - The challenges of identifying and classifying child sexual abuse material

AU - Kloess, Julianne

AU - Woodhams, Jessica

AU - Whittle, Helen

AU - Grant, Timothy D

AU - Hamilton-Giachritsis, Catherine

N1 - This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License (http://www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/) which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (http://www.uk.sagepub.com/aboutus/openaccess.htm). Funding: EPSRC

PY - 2019/3/1

Y1 - 2019/3/1

N2 - The aim of the present study was to (a) assess the reliability with which indecent images of children (IIOC) are classified as being of an indecent versus nonindecent nature, and (b) examine in detail the decision-making process engaged in by law enforcement personnel who undertake the difficult task of identifying and classifying IIOC as per the current legislative offense categories. One experienced researcher and four employees from a police force in the United Kingdom coded an extensive amount of IIOC (n = 1,212-2,233) to determine if they (a) were deemed to be of an indecent nature, and (b) depicted a child. Interrater reliability analyses revealed both considerable agreement and disagreement across coders, which were followed up with two focus groups involving the four employees. The first entailed a general discussion of the aspects that made such material more or less difficult to identify; the second focused around images where there had been either agreement (n = 20) or disagreement (n = 36) across coders that the images were of an indecent nature. Using thematic analysis, a number of factors apparent within IIOC were revealed to make the determination of youthfulness and indecency significantly more challenging for coders, with most relating to the developmental stage of the victim and the ambiguity of the context of an image. Findings are discussed in light of their implications for the identification of victims of ongoing sexual exploitation/abuse, the assessment and treatment of individuals in possession of IIOC, as well as the practice of policing and sentencing this type of offending behavior.

AB - The aim of the present study was to (a) assess the reliability with which indecent images of children (IIOC) are classified as being of an indecent versus nonindecent nature, and (b) examine in detail the decision-making process engaged in by law enforcement personnel who undertake the difficult task of identifying and classifying IIOC as per the current legislative offense categories. One experienced researcher and four employees from a police force in the United Kingdom coded an extensive amount of IIOC (n = 1,212-2,233) to determine if they (a) were deemed to be of an indecent nature, and (b) depicted a child. Interrater reliability analyses revealed both considerable agreement and disagreement across coders, which were followed up with two focus groups involving the four employees. The first entailed a general discussion of the aspects that made such material more or less difficult to identify; the second focused around images where there had been either agreement (n = 20) or disagreement (n = 36) across coders that the images were of an indecent nature. Using thematic analysis, a number of factors apparent within IIOC were revealed to make the determination of youthfulness and indecency significantly more challenging for coders, with most relating to the developmental stage of the victim and the ambiguity of the context of an image. Findings are discussed in light of their implications for the identification of victims of ongoing sexual exploitation/abuse, the assessment and treatment of individuals in possession of IIOC, as well as the practice of policing and sentencing this type of offending behavior.

KW - child pornography

KW - child sexual abuse material

KW - indecent images of children (IIOC)

KW - Internet sexual offenses

KW - online child sexual abuse

UR - https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1079063217724768

U2 - 10.1177/1079063217724768

DO - 10.1177/1079063217724768

M3 - Article

VL - 31

SP - 173

EP - 196

IS - 2

ER -

Kloess J, Woodhams J, Whittle H, Grant TD, Hamilton-Giachritsis C. The challenges of identifying and classifying child sexual abuse material. 2019 Mar 1;31(2):173-196. https://doi.org/10.1177/1079063217724768