What is child sexual abuse material?

Child sexual abuse material (CSAM), often also referred to as child sexual exploitation material (CSEM) is the recording of the sexual abuse or exploitation of a child or young person.

This can include images, videos, or live-streamed content that depict real children or young persons[1] being sexually abused and exploited. In New Zealand, any material that depicts sexual conduct with or by children, young persons, or both, is classified as objectionable (illegal) material.

CSAM depicts a crime scene and the worst moment in a child’s life. The team’s priority is to ensure that anyone who distributes, makes, and possesses this material is caught, prosecuted, and sentenced. DIA and many other agencies use the term CSAM rather than “child pornography” for the following reasons:

  • The term child pornography fails to describe the true nature of the material and undermines the seriousness of the abuse from the child’s perspective.
  • Pornography is a term primarily used to describe material depicting adults engaged in consensual acts distributed for the purposes of sexual pleasure. Using this term in the context of children risks normalizing, trivialising and even legitimising the sexual abuse and exploitation of children.
  • Child pornography implies consent, a child cannot legally give consent.

When combating child sexual exploitation, the use of the correct terminology is important to streamline discussions, and research accurately and avoid confusion and ongoing harm to victims and survivors of child sexual exploitation. It is important that the language used is accurate, respectful, and used without stigma.

For more information about terminology that is accurate and respectful to victims and survivors see The Terminology Project: Legal definitions and terminology considerations (PDF, 288KB).

[1] Child or young person is defined in the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989