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Renaming “Child Pornography” to “Child Sexual Abuse Material”

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While the term child pornography is still widely used by the public, it’s more accurate to call it what it is: evidence of child sexual abuse. Language is pivotal in shaping public perception and understanding in advocacy and awareness. One such movement that seeks to bring about a crucial change in terminology is the push to replace the term “child pornography” with the more accurate and sensitive phrase “child sexual abuse material” (CSAM). This movement underscores the importance of using language that reflects the gravity and criminal nature of the issue.  We need a shift in societal attitudes toward child exploitation.

The Power of Words:

Words are not just communication tools; they can shape attitudes, influence public opinion, and drive social change. The terminology associated with child exploitation has long been a subject of debate, with critics arguing that the term “child pornography” trivializes the severity of the crime. By using the term “pornography,” the focus is shifted away from the criminal act of abuse towards an inappropriate association with adult consensual activities.

Understanding the Change:

The term “child pornography” fails to capture the true nature of the crime. Child sexual abuse material encompasses a broader understanding of the issue. It acknowledged that the creation, distribution, and possession of such material involve the abuse and exploitation of children.

Legal Implications:

The shift in terminology also has legal implications, as it emphasizes the criminal nature of the act. Laws and regulations play a crucial role in addressing child exploitation. Therefore, using accurate terminology helps frame legislation that reflects the seriousness of the offenses committed against children. By employing language that accurately describes the crime, legal systems can better address and prosecute those responsible for child sexual abuse material. No states have changed their laws to reflect better language, although some are making attempts.

H.R.5182 – Child Online Safety Modernization Act of 2023

Introduction by Congresswoman Ann Wagner (R-MO), along with Representatives Sylvia Garcia (D-TX), Don Bacon (R-NE), and Zach Nunn (R-IA) in August of 2023, H.R. 5182 seeks to replace the term “child pornography” with “child sexual abuse material” throughout U.S. federal statutes. Child victims depicted in such imagery have no consent and no control over their sexual exploitation. U.S. federal law should accurately reflect this abuse.

Global Initiatives:

Various organizations, law enforcement agencies, and advocates worldwide endorse the change. The goal is to emphasize the criminality and harm associated with the production and distribution of explicit content involving minors.

Challenges and Criticisms:

While the movement has gained significant traction, its challenges and criticisms remain. Some argue that changing the terminology is merely a semantic adjustment and that the focus should be on addressing the root causes of child exploitation. Others express concerns about the potential misuse of the term to stigmatize consensual activities among adolescents.

Language shapes perceptions, and using accurate and sensitive terminology is essential in fostering a societal understanding of the gravity of crimes against children. The change can contribute to a broader conversation about the need for comprehensive measures to protect children.

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