Babies and toddlers are more likely to suffer the most severe forms of child sex abuse than older children.
A groundbreaking study of child abuse images has found a indirect correlation between the age of the victim and the severity of the image.
Children aged two and under are most likely to suffer abuse constituting a category A image – penetrative sexual activity, sexual activity with an animal, or sadism.
Research from the Internet Watch Foundation found that Category B images, which involve non-penetrative sexual activity, were steadier throughout different age groups.
But indecent Category C images, which do not fall within categories A or B, were more common among 14 to 15-year-olds than the most severe Category A pictures.
This is attributed to self-generated images which are then posted online, the Internet Watch Foundation said.
Susie Hargreaves, CEO of the organisation, said: ‘At the IWF, our analysts do what others can’t by finding images of real life child sexual abuse in order to have these images removed from the internet. Every time an image is shared and watched by another person the child suffers re-victimisation, and we know this can have a huge and long-lasting impact on a victim.
‘These shocking statistics speak for themselves – the worst abuse is suffered by the youngest. As everyone knows, babies are utterly defenceless.
‘We know these statistics will horrify and upset people but it’s important that people understand why we need to keep doing what we do.’
The study of more images between January 2014 and September 2017 found that 63% of sex abuse images showing children aged zero to two were Category A.