Child Sexual Abuse (CSA)
From a legal perspective, child sexual abuse is a “crime against sexual self-determination”. Sexual acts performed on or with children are always punishable by law – even when the child (legally: a person under 14 years of age) had allegedly indicated their consent. This form of consent would, in any case, be considered meaningless, as a child is unable to responsibly agree to such an act due to their stage of development. For the same reason, the law also sets the age of criminal liability in German law at 14.
Both direct sexual contact with a child’s genitals and actions that force the child to perform sexual acts (e.g. in connection with the production of child sexual abuse images) count as abusive behavior. Sexual acts with minors are especially liable to prosecution when particular circumstances also apply: when the offender is in a position of authority or takes advantage of a custodial or protective relationship to the victim or when the victim, due to a disability, is unable to put up resistance and accordingly sexual assault or rape takes place.
The majority of sexual assaults on children and adolescents remain unknown and unreported to the authorities. As these deeds are not accounted for by criminal statistics and therefore remain in the dark, they are referred to as being in the so-called dark field. The share of offenses in the dark field is many times larger – according to some estimates, at least eight times as large – as the share of offenses known to the legal system, which are designated as being in the light field. The share of offenses involving the consumption of child sexual abuse images as a portion of all offenses against sexual autonomy in the light field remains low. Nevertheless, police criminal statistics indicate a notable increase in this group of crimes. It must be assumed that the consumption of child sexual abuse images on the internet predominantly takes place in the dark field.