COVID-19 restrictions increase the risk of child sexual exploitation and abuse

Behaviour of both offenders and victims affected by measures to contain the pandemic

Posted in: Online Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse , Uncategorised

Under-reporting of child sexual abuse and increased sharing of child exploitation material through peer-to-peer networks are among the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic according to an INTERPOL assessment.

The report highlights the trends and threats in the current context compared to pre-pandemic measures, what impact these are having in the short-term, and what changes are likely to happen as COVID-19 restrictions are changed.

“What the report shows is that we are seeing just the tip of a growing iceberg in terms of online child exploitation material.”

Jürgen Stock

INTERPOL Secretary General

“It is important to remember that each photo and video of child sexual abuse is evidence of a real crime involving real children. Each time an image is viewed those children are re-victimized and their very real suffering is prolonged even further.”

“We must do more to make sure that the officers investigating these horrific crimes have the support they need, which is where cooperation through INTERPOL plays a vital role in fighting this transnational crime,” added the INTERPOL Chief.

Key environmental, social and economic factor changes due to COVID-19 which have impacted child sexual exploitation and abuse (CSEA) across the world include:

  • closure of schools and subsequent movement to virtual learning environments;
  • increased time children spend online for entertainment, social and educational purposes;
  • restriction of international travel and the repatriation of foreign nationals;
  • limited access to community support services, child care and educational personnel who often play a key role in detecting and reporting cases of child sexual exploitation.

With this increase in obstacles for victims to report offences or access support, there are concerns that some offending may never be reported after a substantial delay.