COVID-19 presents an increased risk of child sexual exploitation

COVID-19 presents an increased risk of child sexual exploitation
25 March, 2020 Anna Borgström

COVID-19 presents an increased risk of child sexual exploitation

Due to the closing of schools as a result of the Corona virus, experts agree that children will have an increased online presence and will be at an inadvertent risk.

This week the FBI warned parents, educators, caregivers, and children about the dangers of online sexual exploitation and signs of child abuse.

Dating back to 2015, NetClean issue a yearly report on child sexual abuse. Our data is gathered across the world from police officers who specialise in child sexual abuse crimes. Below follows some of the data that we have collected.

Grooming and sexual extortion material is on the rise

Grooming is a process whereby the offender slowly builds up a relationship with a child to win their trust and confidence to obtain sexually explicit material.

Sexual extortion is when children are threatened into sending images and videos of themselves, or engage in other types of sexual actions. Grooming can develop into sexual extortion, or the offender might threaten the child from the start.

Two thirds of the surveyed police officers in the NetClean Report 2018 answered that images and videos that have been produced as a result of grooming are common or very common in their investigations. Nearly as many reported that sexual extortion is equally common. More than half of the respondents said that both these types of material are increasing.

Data from NCMEC (the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children) confirms these trends, but points to an even steeper increase in the production of these types of material. They also comment that there are a large number of hidden cases, as the majority of victims don’t come forward to report the abuse.

“Grooming can develop into sexual extortion, or the offender might threaten the child from the start.”

Age of the children (victims) depicted in the material

NCMEC report that 78 percent of the children in their reported cases are girls, aged between 8 to 17. The surveyed police officers in the NetClean Report 2018 reported that they see even younger children than that. Though 8-16 were reported to be the most common ages, 16 percent of the surveyed police officers reported that they had seen cases with children younger than 5 years old.

Extorted for images

The children in sexual extortion cases are most commonly extorted for undressed images (more than 96 percent of the surveyed police officers answered that this is the most common type of threat). In some cases they are also extorted for money, but this is less common.

Types of threats

The most common threat that children are subjected to is that images of them will be posted online or sent to someone that they know. 97 percent of the surveyed police officers stated this. Sometimes threats are also made, for example, towards the child’s family or physical threats against the child itself, but this is less common.

“However, the responsibility of safeguarding children cannot only be put on parents or the children themselves”

Live-streamed child sexual abuse material

Half of the surveyed police officers also reported that live-streamed material as a result of grooming or sexual extortion is common or very common. One third answered that this is the most common type of live-streamed material they see in their investigations.

A brighter future for children

Parents and guardians regardless of country can take the measures FBI is proposing in the article to help educate and prevent children from becoming victims of child predators and sexual exploitation during this time of global emergency.

However, the responsibility of safeguarding children cannot only be put on parents or the children themselves. To effectively fight the spread of child sexual abuse material, different technologies must be applied by who provide internet connectivity and have an interest in making it a safe space for future generations. If all businesses and organisations in the world – billions of computers and networks – took appropriate action, the opportunity to find and disrupt the spread of online child sexual material would increase infinitely.

Read more here.