Appropriate terminology

Appropriate terminology

Most law enforcement agencies working with child sexual abuse material believe it is time to stop the use of the misleading term “child pornography” when describing images of sexual abuse of children.

Child abuse is not pornography

A sexual image of a child is “abuse” or “exploitation” and should never be described as “pornography”.

Pornography is a term used for adults engaging in consensual sexual acts distributed (mostly) legally to the general public for their sexual pleasure. Child abuse images are not. They involve children who cannot and would not consent and who are victims of a crime.

The child abuse images are documented evidence of a crime in progress – a child being sexually abused.

Serious crime, serious definition

Adults who are sexually aroused by these abuse images of children do not care if the child is being abused, or may not even believe that it is the case. By referring to the images as “child porn”, “kiddy porn”, or similar terms, it allows them to think that it is somehow acceptable and legitimate, like other types of pornography.

The adults who view these images also possess and trade this material to fuel their sexual desires towards children and this may result in an offence towards a child they come in contact with.

The terms “kiddy porn” and “child porn” are used by criminals and should not be legitimate language used by law enforcement, judiciary, the public or media.

Legislation in some countries, or even the departments dealing with child sexual abuse within the police, may use terms like “child pornography”, making the term difficult to avoid.

Such definitions and names reflect an era where one did not fully understand the impact of sexual abuse and is slowly changing as legislation is revised and the victims are given better protection and rights. The law enforcement community should contribute to this change by being precise in its terminology.

Children who have been sexually abused and photographed deserve to be protected and respected and not have the seriousness of their abuse trivialized by the term “porn”.

Recommended terminology

Precise definitions are essential. More accurate definitions of such material are:

  • “Documented child sexual abuse”;
  • “Child sexual abuse material”;
  • “Child sexual exploitive material”;
  • “Depicted child sexual abuse”;
  • “Child abuse images”;
  • and the abbreviations “CAM”, “CEM” “CAI”.