U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

A Study of Trauma and Resiliency among Forensic Examiners Investigating Child Pornography

NCJ Number
Date Published
47 pages

This research project is a study of the effect of child sexual abuse material (CSAM) on forensic investigators of child pornography.


This study examines how agencies who investigate sex crimes against children can support their personnel and help promote wellbeing. Exposure to child sexual abuse material (CSAM) can be a source of stress for personnel and the results show concern about the problem and a diffusion of proactive initiatives, but still large gaps, barriers, and inconsistent adoption remain. Since the expansion of the Internet in the mid-1990s, a growing number of law enforcement cases have involved the possession, distribution and production of CSAM. Because these cases involve computers and the Internet, they require examiners and investigators with specialized technical expertise and equipment. Consequently, many CSAM investigations are handled by specialized law enforcement units, such as the 61 Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Forces. These task forces and affiliated agencies encompass over 7,000 investigators who, in the course of handling cases of Internet-related child sexual exploitation, may be exposed to considerable quantities of CSAM that graphically portrays child sexual abuse. In 2023, the Cybertipline received almost 36 million reports of CSAM possession, manufacture, and distribution, up from 29 million in 2021. There is extensive concern among law enforcement that viewing such material may have corrosive effects on investigators’ mental health.

Date Published: January 1, 2024