What is Victim Identification?
Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) is the evidence of a crime that has taken place. Investigators and victim identification specialists use this evidence to work out information about the crime, such as who the victims and perpetrators are, and where the abuse took place. This helps them remove the child from harm, and arrest the perpetrator.
Victim identification experts are highly trained and have specialist tools which can investigate them in their investigation. One example is INTERPOL’s International Child Sexual Exploitation Database, which helps investigators identify similarities between images and videos and exchange information with other investigators.
What clues are investigators looking for?
Victim investigations starts with the examination of the digital, visual and audio content of photographs and films. This enables officers to find clues identifying the location or victim. Things they identify in this virtual investigation can then be pieced together to support their investigation in the physical world.
Things they might look for include:
- Local artwork
- Food packaging
- Newspapers or magazines
- Clothing or toys
Europol's Trace an Object campaign uses public insight to help identify the origin of certain objects. Learn more about Trace an Object here.
How do investigators get the images and videos?
One way in which investigators get images and videos of child sexual abuse is from public reports. All CSAM which is reported by members of the public to hotlines in the INHOPE network is made available to investigators working for INTERPOL via ICCAM, INHOPE's secure portal used to classify, store, and exchange reports. This means that by reporting material you think might be suspicious to a hotline, you're directly helping that child be brought into safety.
Other ways in which investigators might gain access to CSAM is through:
- Child exploitation investigations
- Proactive monitoring of online platforms
- Forensic analysis of seized mobiles, laptops, digital storage units, etc.
Learn more about victim identification here.
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