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Page URL: https://practice.orangatamariki.govt.nz/our-work/assessment-and-planning/assessments/specialist-topics/sexual-harm-and-sexual-behaviour/child-sexual-exploitation/
Printed: 19/05/2024
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Last updated: 26/03/2021

Child sexual exploitation

We may become aware through a report of concern or while we are working with a whānau or family that someone is accessing, exchanging or producing recordings of the sexual abuse of tamariki or rangatahi (sometimes called child pornography).

Upcoming changes for this guidance

This content will be strengthened so it more completely reflects our commitment to practice framed by te Tiriti o Waitangi, based on a mana-enhancing paradigm for practice, and drawing from ​Te Ao Māori principles of oranga to support mana tamaiti, whakapapa and whanaungatanga. We each need to consider how we can apply these principles to our practice when reading this guidance. The following resources provide support:
Practice for working effectively with Māori
Our practice approach

What is child sexual exploitation

Serious child protection concerns exist whenever someone actively engages in this criminal activity.


The Films, Videos and Publications Classification Act 1993 makes it an offence in New Zealand to make, possess or distribute a publication that:

  • promotes or supports the exploitation of tamariki and rangatahi for sexual purposes
  • describes, depicts or deals with sexual conduct with or by tamariki and rangatahi
  • exploits the nudity of tamariki and rangatahi for sexual purposes.

Meaning of objectionable — section 3 of Films, Videos and Publications Classification Act 1993

This includes habitually or frequently visiting websites containing recordings of child sexual abuse, even if no material is downloaded.

These recordings are most commonly visual images but may also include audio recordings (real or simulated). Visual images can range from images of clothed or partially clothed tamariki or rangatahi, to images of naked tamariki or rangatahi being posed in sexually provocative ways and, at its worst, images of a sexual assault being perpetrated against a tamaiti or rangatahi.

Sex dolls

It is also an offence to own childlike sex dolls. Such dolls are considered obscene or indecent articles under the Customs and Excise Act 1996, and it is illegal to import them.

Commercial sexual exploitation

Commercial sexual exploitation of tamariki or rangatahi occurs when a person under the age of 18 is used sexually by the adult and the adult pays to do this with gifts, money or favours. At the time tamariki or rangatahi may not consider themselves victims of exploitation especially if they believe they agreed to the arrangement. Sexual exploitation grooms victims by providing some kind of ‘reward’ for their participation in a sexual act.

Child ALERT website

People who look at child sexual images

A Department of Internal Affairs study, first published in 2004, found that in New Zealand, the profile of people who have been prosecuted for trading in child sexual images are pākehā men. The most common age has increased from 20–24 to 45–64. Offenders have increasing levels of access to images. Only 27% of those convicted have been found to have a previous criminal history. However, of that 27%, 39% have been found to have criminal histories involving a sexual offence against a male or female under the age of 16.

Internet Traders of Child Pornography and other Censorship Offenders in New Zealand – dia.govt.nz

There is no definitive research that shows a link between people who offend online and a physical act of sexual offending. However, it is likely that viewing and fantasising about sexually abusing a tamaiti normalises child sexual abuse. When social norms support violence, then tamariki are more at risk of abuse and harm.

Producing child sexual images usually causes direct and primary harm to a tamaiti or rangatahi. The producer has knowingly been part of the sexual abuse of a tamaiti while also recording the act and probably profiting from it.

Rangatahi or tamariki may have viewed sexual images online, as part of their normal exploration. However, if this has included child sexual images, talk to them about what they've seen and consider how to create improved online safety in the future. We should consider reporting to the police if we know where they accessed the images.

Assessment considerations

We do not base our assessment on whether the police intend to charge or not. If the concerns do not meet the threshold for the Child Protection Protocol (CPP), our assessment needs to establish evidence of safety that protects tamariki and rangatahi from sexual abuse, as well as exposure to inappropriate sexual material.

Protect and support the development of tamariki and rangatahi within healthy whānau and families

We take all concerns seriously, regardless of the gender of the accused. Both men and women can sexualise, objectify and sexually abuse tamariki or rangatahi.

At a minimum, education might be recommended to challenge ideas of acceptable sexualised behaviour towards and around tamariki or rangatahi.

When adults who have sexually abused have contact with tamariki or rangatahi

Responding to whānau or family and rangatahi about sexual activity

Sharing nudes and sexting

Sexting is the term used to describe sending or receiving fully or partially nude images, videos or texts of a sexual content.

Netsafe provides information we can use when talking with tamariki and rangatahi about this topic.

Understanding nudes and sexting – netsafe.org.nz

Assessment considerations

The age of consensual sex in New Zealand is 16 years old. Therefore if tamariki or rangatahi have been involved in sharing images of themselves or others, our assessment has to determine if there are concerning or harmful sexual behaviours that need to be addressed.

If adults have been sexting rangatahi under the age of 16 or if the participants are all under the age of 16, we use the Child Protection Protocol (CPP) to plan our approach. Even if rangatahi are close in age, we assess the needs and safety of all parties. At a minimum, education might be recommended to keep them safe in their future.

When an underaged rangatahi believes that they are in a consenting relationship with an adult, we need to consider their past trauma or unmet needs and how their past may be impacting on their current choices. Consider referring to specialist support services to help rangatahi explore the grooming they might be currently exposed to.

Concerning or harmful sexual behaviour

Sexual abuse

Reports of concern about sexualised behaviour