Offenders' approaches to overcoming victim resistance in technology-assisted child sexual abuse

Katie Thomas, Catherine Hamilton-Giachritsis, Pat Branigan, Elly Hanson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (SciVal)


BACKGROUND: Perpetrators of technology-assisted abuse use an abundance of strategies to manipulate and sexually abuse children online, however victim resistance during and post abuse has yet to be explored in detail.

OBJECTIVE: This study aimed to explore the strategies perpetrators use to overcome direct victim resistance and the strategies victims use to resist perpetrators' demands.

PARTICIPANTS AND SETTING: The sample was recruited through Childline, National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) and the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP). This consisted of 10 semi-structured interview transcripts of 1 male and 9 female victims of technology-assisted sexual abuse, who were aged between 9 and 15 years old at the time of the abuse (M = 13.09, SD = 2.0).

METHOD: This study qualitatively analysed secondary data collected by Hamilton-Giachritsis et al. (2020). The interview transcripts were analysed using a thematic analysis.

RESULTS: The thematic map consisted of two key themes and six sub-themes. Results identified how all perpetrators appeared to adapt their strategies of overcoming victim resistance using a variety of approaches. These ranged from isolating victims and depriving them of sleep, to more extreme approaches such as threats to share sexual images of the victims. Victims also used a range of strategies to resist and de-escalate the abuse, such as feigning ignorance and complying with some but not all requests.

CONCLUSIONS: This study identified the key strategies used by offenders to overcome victim resistance, and the strategies young people used to resist, de-escalate and end the abuse.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106143
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
Early online date12 May 2023
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jul 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Despite the growing wealth of knowledge surrounding online grooming tactics, limited literature has explored the strategies employed by victims in their attempts to end the abuse. Chiang and Grant suggested this might have resulted from research using decoy victim data instead of data featuring genuine victims ( Chiang & Grant, 2019 ; Schneevogt et al., 2018 ). This was supported by their study which examined online sexual abuse transcripts featuring an offender and their victims. These genuine transcripts featured victim resistance significantly more than transcripts featuring victim-decoys ( Chiang & Grant, 2019 ; Schneevogt et al., 2018 ). Congruent with these findings, victim resistance has predominantly been identified within the research that has analysed genuine victim and offender statements. Genuine victims displayed resistance using strategies such as a questioning the offender's identity and their motivation for ‘adding them’, or merely ignoring and blocking the offender ( Chiang & Grant, 2019 ; De Santisteban et al., 2018 ; Smahel et al., 2020 ; Webster et al., 2012 ).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023


  • Child sexual abuse
  • Child sexual exploitation and abuse
  • Offender behavior
  • Online child sexual abuse
  • Online sexual grooming

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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