Types of sexual violence against children
There are many different types of sexual violence against children. Many of these involve physical contact between the offender and the victim, although types of sexual violence without physical contact also exist. The latter types are often committed online.
Types of sexual violence against children
Hands-on sexual violence
Hands-on sexual violence involves sexual contact between the offender and the victim and includes indecent acts, sexual assault and rape.
Physical sexual violence against children can occur in all kinds of scenarios and within all kinds of personal relationships, such as families, romantic relationships, at school, when socialising, at sports clubs, etc. The offenders can be known to the victims, or they can be complete strangers, and the offences may be committed by adults or by other children. Sometimes, sexual violence against children is also recorded in visual form and distributed. This is referred to as child sexual abuse material.
Hands-off sexual violence
Hands-off sexual violence is sexual violence involving no physical contact between the offender and the victim. Examples of hands-off sexual violence include the possession or distribution of child sexual abuse material, forcing underage children to watch pornography, forwarding nude photos without permission, or forcing victims to perform sexual acts in front of a webcam.
Online sexual violence
A large proportion of hands-off sexual violence takes place online, e.g. via social media, chat apps or online games. Online forms of sexual violence can also lead to physical forms of sexual violence.
If a victim is forced to perform sexual acts (online or offline) in exchange for money or other forms of compensation, this is referred to as sexual exploitation. In addition to sexual violence, cases such as these are also classified as human trafficking.
The term 'indecent acts' includes all types of sexual violence against children involving physical contact of a sexual nature between the offender and the victim. Sex with children under the age of 16 is a criminal act. Dutch criminal law does not require any proof that the underage victim was forced to perform the sexual contact, nor does it require proof that the offender knew that the victim was underage.
Rape is defined as forced or violent sexual penetration of one person's body (either orally, genitally or anally) by another person. Sexual assault is defined as forcing somebody to perform or endure any other type of sexual act, possibly by threatening the victim.
Dutch criminal law stipulates that both in cases of rape (article 242) and in cases of sexual assault (article 246), proof that the victim was forced to perform or endure the sexual act(s) in question is required.
Child sexual abuse material is visual material depicting a sexual act with a child. It is an offence to make, possess, distribute or view this type of visual material.
Child sexual abuse material is extremely damaging to the victims, as sexual violence against children must be committed in order to make it. The fact that images or footage of this crime exist and that this material may be on the internet often makes the situation even more painful for the victim.
Sexting is the sharing or distribution of sexually charged messages, photos or videos. This can be done consensually (e.g. within a romantic relationship), although it is sometimes non-consensual. Sexting becomes a criminal act if the visual material features a minor. In that case, the visual material is classified as child sexual abuse material. The sexual act depicted in the image does not have to be physical sexual violence for the image to be deemed child sexual abuse material. It could also be a child taking a naked photo of him/herself.
The circumstances of individual sexting cases can differ greatly. In the Netherlands, the law recognises that consensual sexting between minors can be a normal and healthy part of their sexual development. For this reason, it is not automatically deemed to be a criminal act. However, non-consensual sexting between minors is classified as a criminal act, and any such actions will result in appropriate measures being imposed against the offender, such as a Halt penalty.
In the context of sexual violence against children, ‘grooming’ is an English term that means charming or seducing a child for sexual purposes. In Dutch criminal law, the term has a more specific meaning. Grooming is defined as the situation where an offender proposes a meeting with a child, whom he knows or suspects is under the age of sixteen, with the intention of having sex with the child or making pornographic images involving the child.
A further requirement for the commission of this crime is that the offender in question must also know or suspect that the child is below the age of 16. In order to prosecute someone for grooming, the offender must undertake specific actions to realise the encounter, e.g. buying the child a train ticket.
Paying for sex with children aged 16 or 17 is against the law in the Netherlands, regardless of whether the child is forced to participate in paid sex or is a willing participant. In all cases, paying a child for sex is a criminal offence, as is offering sex with a child to others. If the person offering sex with a child stands to profit from it (financially or otherwise), it is classified as sexual exploitation.
Sex with children under the age of 16 is always a criminal act, regardless of whether it is paid for.
Child sex tourism refers to situations in which an offender commits sexual violence against a child during a short visit to or a longer-term stay in a foreign country. Sometimes, these offenders travel to these countries with the specific intention of abusing a child. In other cases, the offence is an unplanned response to a spontaneous opportunity to commit sexual violence against a child.
Child sex tourism can involve any type of sexual violence against children. This includes sexual violence committed via the internet, for example, if a child is made to suffer abuse in front of a webcam. These children are often also victims of sexual exploitation.