Healing from CSAM for Survivors and Parents/Caregivers

Child sexual abuse material (CSAM) is any content that depicts sexual activity with a minor. Most commonly pictures and videos, CSAM can live forever online, which leads to survivors and caregivers/parents being revictimized — and, often, retraumatized— repeatedly throughout their life.

Being a survivor of child sexual abuse material or a parent/caregiver of a child who was sexually victimized online can bring many emotions including anger, sadness, shame, and anxiety. While there are many feelings a survivor or a parent/caregiver may have in response to the distribution of child sexual abuse material, healing from online sexual abuse is a non-linear journey. Below are a few strategies that survivors and parents/caregivers may find helpful in their individual healing journeys.

Healing mechanisms for parents/caregivers of child sexual abuse material

  • Listen to your child with compassion. Avoid asking “why” questions which can often sound like you’re placing blame on your child for their experience. Instead, listen to your child; comfort your child; and be patient with your child. Remind them that it was never their fault. Consider asking how you can support them best and give them choices in how they would like to heal. Remind them that it was never their fault.
  • Educate yourself about online safety. After finding out that your child is a survivor of child sexual abuse material, remember that it is not your fault. Educating yourself during the time of disclosure on what child sexual abuse material is and how it happens is an important step in safety and prevention.
  • Connect with your child. Healing together with your child from sexual exploitation online is not easy and takes time. Try not to force connection with your child and take it day by day. Be ready to listen with care and empathy while loving on them unconditionally. There is no timeline in healing.

Healing mechanisms for survivors of child sexual abuse material

  • Deciding to heal. You may have reached a point in your life where you become aware that your traumatic experience is that of child sexual abuse material. Being intentional about healing can include actively seeking and engaging in activities that focus on recovering from trauma. It could be engaging in some form of therapy, meditation practices, support groups, etc. Deciding to heal is investing in making decisions that promote recovery at the time that is best for you..
  • Be compassionate: Continue to be patient with yourself. Be kind to yourself and learn to talk to yourself with love, compassion, and understanding. Remember that what happened to you is not your fault. Be gentle with yourself.
  • Finding a community: Finding a support group, activity, or hobby in your area can help you reconnect with others. It can give you a chance to start new friendships and create a space for support and communion.

To speak with a trained support specialist, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673) or chat online in English at online.rainn.org or in Spanish at RAINN.org/es.

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