Fantasy-Driven Versus Contact-Driven Users of Child Sexual Exploitation Material

Offender Classification and Implications for Their Risk Assessment

Hannah Merdian, Nima Moghaddam, Douglas BOER, Nick Wilson, Jo Thakker, Cate Curtis, Dave Dawson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

9 Citations (Scopus)


Since the advent of the Internet, convictions for the possession, display, trading, and distribution of child sexual exploitation material (CSEM) have risen steadily, but little is known about their appropriate assessment and treatment, especially concerning their risk of reoffending. It has been suggested that a conceptual distinction of fantasy- versus contact-driven CSEM users might be of merit. Sixty-eight offenders recruited from sex offender treatment providers were assessed via an anonymous computer survey including a variety of clinical and risk-related variables; the findings showed differences in the psychological profiles between CSEM users and contact child sex offenders. Numerical and spatial methods of data analysis were used to identify subgroups of CSEM users; these confirmed the twofold distinction of fantasy- versus contact-driven offending. The spatial representation of participants identified three dimensions as crucial in the classification of these subgroups: direct sexual contact with a minor, possession of fantasy-generating material, and social contact with other users with a sexual interest in minors; potentially differentiating distinct offender subgroups with different risks and needs. The current study informed the development of an empirical model of CSEM users that could aid in the assessment of risk of reoffending and cross-over to contact sex offending
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)230-253
Number of pages24
JournalSexual Abuse: Journal of Research and Treatment
Issue number3
Early online date2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2018
Externally publishedYes


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