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The typology of child sexual abuse (CSA) offending seeks to define different types of abuse by focusing on the context in which abuse is committed. This means describing contextual factors around different types of offending by considering four key factors:

  1. Connection between the perpetrator(s) and victim.
  2. Process involved in accessing/maintaining access to the victim.
  3. Nature of the abuse.
  4. Where/how the abuse took place.

The Centre of Expertise on Child Sexual Abuse has defined nine different typologies of child sexual abuse offending. These are:

The sexual abuse of a child or young person by an adult family member, or by an adult who is connected to the family or to one of its members, for example, sexual abuse by a partner, parent, grandparent, lodger, babysitter, neighbour.


Case example A

An uncle abused his 16-year-old niece in the family home. The uncle had been living in the home for a number of years due to family circumstances and the victim and her uncle had grown up together. The grooming began when the victim was five years of age, which involved inappropriate touching. This continued for several years until the uncle moved out of the home due to family living arrangements. The relationship became of a sexual nature when the young person was 13, and then this continued for two years. The victim was regularly leaving home for a few hours each time to meet with the uncle. Parents became concerned and uncovered images on her phone and then the victim disclosed the abuse as the uncle had become very controlling. The police and children’s services were involved, and the case went to court.


Case example B

A paternal grandfather abused his 12-year-old granddaughter for over a year. The perpetrator was then arrested for abusing other family members causing shock amongst the whole family. Considering the age of the child when the abuse started, the girl was made to believe that it was normal for the grandfather to touch her under clothing, resulting in the child normalising the sexual acts.


Case example C

An 11-year-old boy was abused by his father during contact at the father’s home and the images shared online. The abuse started at the age of three until age nine.  The abuse was eventually disclosed to the mother who took action by reporting it to the police.


Case example D

A 15-year-old girl was sexually abused by her stepbrother, which included rape and sexual touching. The abuse started in the family home when she was 10 years old, and her stepbrother was 16 years old. Parents became aware when the girl was 13 years old, and the mother found text messages between her and the stepbrother. The mother contacted children’s services and the stepbrother was removed from the home.


The sexual abuse of a child or young person by someone who holds a position of authority over them as a result of a professional or vocational role, for example, a teacher, religious leader, coach, staff members in youth clubs, residential settings.


Case example E

A 12-year-old boy was abused by his football coach. The coach groomed the boy and his family for access to the child, and he was considered a good family friend. The coach began offering private one-to-one coaching sessions in recognition of the child’s ambition to play professionally. This often took place at the perpetrators house where the abuse would take place. The abuse resulted in the boy struggling with misdirected anger and the child eventually disclosed the abuse to his mother.


This type focuses on sexual abuse of a child or young person which is carried out by more than one perpetrator; the perpetrator who initiates the abuse (the initiating perpetrator) seeks to gain access to the child, or to images of the child, through another perpetrator (the intermediary perpetrator), for example, child sexual exploitation.


Situations where a perpetrator, operating online, encourages/deceives/coerces a child or young person to take part in online sexualised conversations or sexual acts, and/or to produce images (photos or videos) of themselves that they share with the perpetrator online, for example, via snapchat and other messaging apps.


Case example F

A vulnerable eight-year-old girl was groomed by a 29-year-old man via an online game. The child had a chaotic homelife and was very good at ‘pretending’ to be OK. The man persuaded the girl to gradually show intimate parts of herself after telling her he knew where she lived, and that he would hurt her family if she did not comply.  The child was also coerced into involving her younger sibling in the abuse, before it was discovered.


The viewing of images of child sexual abuse that have already been created. This can include viewing, possessing and sharing images (photos or videos) with others, generally (but not exclusively) online, for example, searching for or viewing indecent images of children via the dark web or file sharing sites.


Child sexual abuse (CSA) committed by perpetrators who are part of a group or network. This may be a social group, gang or network that meets in person, or a group or network in which members interact online and remain anonymous. The abuse may include contact abuse and/or the creation/sharing of images of CSA. It is facilitated and encouraged through the perpetrators’ membership of the group/network.


Child sexual abuse of a child or young person by one or more perpetrators where, in return for payment (either financial or other), a perpetrator (‘the seller’) offers other perpetrators (‘buyers’) access to the child or young person for contact abuse and/or creates and sells images (photos or videos) of abuse.


Case example G

A father made his 8-year-old son with learning difficulties available to be sexually abused by a friend who was a registered sex offender, in return for cash payments. The father had met the child’s mother when she was much younger than him and there were questionable images of the father on social media. The abuse was discovered when the perpetrator was arrested for a separate offence and his mobile phone was seized and found to contain a large collection of CSA images and videos.


A perpetrator who establishes a personal connection with a child or young person and grooms or coerces them into sexual abuse, for example, connecting with them on social media or asking them to meet up for social purposes.


See Case example G in section 7 above.


This type of abuse describes situations where a perpetrator, who is unknown to the child or young person, attacks and sexually assaults them.


Case example H

A 5-year-old boy was sexually abused in a one-off incident with a stranger whilst at a campsite on a family holiday. The child was ahead of his family on a woodland path and was then out of sight from his parents for approximately six to eight minutes. When they had realised that he was gone, the parents began a panicked search for him when another camper shared that they had seen a young boy matching his description with an older man coming out of the woods. The parents ran to find their son who was tearful. He had been orally raped which was confirmed following a medical examination. The perpetrator was found and prosecuted and is now serving a prison sentence after pleading guilty.