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“The worst abuse is suffered by the youngest.” New statistics show babies and toddlers suffer the worst sexual abuse online

The Internet Watch Foundation finds harrowing new trend which shows the younger the victim, the more severe the sexual abuse

Graph of statistics

Children aged zero to two suffer the worst forms of child sexual abuse, the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) can reveal.

New statistics released today (Monday) show that over the past three years, the younger the victim, the more likely child sexual abuse images online depicting them will be a category A image - involving penetrative sexual activity, sexual activity with an animal or sadism.  

The data was put together by the Internet Watch Foundation, an independent not-for-profit organisation which makes the internet safer by removing child sexual abuse material. The watchdog is the only organisation in the UK that can proactively find and assess online child sexual abuse images. It then works internationally with internet companies to get them removed.

It found that from January 2014 to September 2017, 63 percent of child sexual abuse material showing children aged zero to two was category A, for three to six-year-olds, the figure was 57 percent and for seven to 10-year-olds 36 percent of images were category A. For the 11 to 13 age group the figure was 20 percent, for 14 to 16 they amounted to 16 percent and for 16 to 17-year-olds it was seven percent. The data shows a strong correlation between the age of the child and the form of abuse.

Susie Hargreaves, CEO at the IWF, said the statistics are “shocking” and show why it is so important that the IWF continues to stamp out child sexual abuse imagery online.

She said: “At the IWF, our analysts do what others can’t by finding images of real life child sexual abuse in order to have these images removed from the internet. Every time an image is shared and watched by another person the child suffers re-victimisation, and we know this can have a huge and long-lasting impact on a victim.

“These shocking statistics speak for themselves - the worst abuse is suffered by the youngest. As everyone knows, babies are utterly defenceless.

“That means every day our analysts are working to stop these horrific images of young babies and toddlers being raped and tortured from being shared on the internet. We know these statistics will horrify and upset people but it’s important that people understand why we need to keep doing what we do.

“We are continuing to work with the internet industry to put an end to online child sexual abuse imagery. Since the IWF started in 1996, we’ve taken the amount of child sexual abuse material hosted in the UK down from 18 percent to just 0.1 percent. Despite this, we still find one of these images or videos every nine minutes, which is why we need a global effort to see this material removed once and for all.”


Category B images, images involving non-penetrative sexual activity, remained steadier between all age groups – ranging from 17 percent to 30 percent of the overall images seen.

In turn, images of 14 and 15-year-olds were most likely to be category C at 67 percent. Aside from the 16 to 17 age group coming in very slightly lower at 66 percent, the likelihood of the images being category C increased with age. The IWF puts this down to an increase in self-generated content.

Overall the IWF saw:

  • 5,802 webpages showing images of zero to two-year-olds;
  • 32,462 webpages with images of three to six-year-olds;
  • 99,703 webpages with images of seven to 10s;
  • 75,077 for 11 to 13;
  • 5,023 for 14 to 15 and
  • 3,518 for 16 to 17-year-olds.

One webpage can contain between one and thousands of images.

Report here