Background: Despite the high prevalence of child sexual offenses and the increasing amounts of available child sexual abuse material, there is a global shortage of preventive interventions focusing on individuals at risk of sexual offending. The web-based app Troubled Desire aims to address this shortage by offering self-assessments and self-management training modules in different languages to individuals with sexual interests in prepubescent and early pubescent children (ie, those with pedophilic and hebephiliac sexual interest, respectively).
Objective: The aim of this study was to describe the characteristics of the users of the Troubled Desire app.
Methods: The fully completed self-assessment data gathered within the first 30 months of this study from October 25, 2017 to April 25, 2020 were investigated. The main outcome measures were (1) sociodemographic information and (2) sexual interests and sexual behaviors of the users of Troubled Desire.
Results: The self-assessment was completed by 4161 users. User accesses were mainly from Germany (2277/4161, 54.7%) and the United States (474/4161, 11.4%). Approximately 78.9% (3281/4161) of the users reported sexual interest in children; these users were significantly more likely to report distress and trouble owing to their sexual interest. Further, child sexual offenses and consumption of child sexual abuse material were significantly more common among users with sexual interest in children than among users with no sexual interest in children. Additionally, the majority of the offenses were not known to legal authorities.
Conclusions: The Troubled Desire app is useful in reaching out to individuals with sexual interest in prepubescent and early pubescent children. However, future research is warranted to understand the prospective relevance of the Troubled Desire app in the prevention of child sexual offending.