Press realease, European Commission, July 2020 | It is estimated that 1 in 5 children are victim to some form of sexual violence in Europe. There are indications that the coronavirus crisis has served to exacerbate the problem for many children living with abusers, while reports of online child sexual abuse in the EU have increased from 23,000 in 2010 to more than 725,000 in 2019. Europol found that the coronavirus pandemic correlates with increased sharing of abuse images online.
To complement and improve existing EU activities in protecting children from sexual abuse, and to address new challenges such as unforeseen risks of end-to-end encryption, the Commission is putting forward a new strategy to fight child sexual abuse both offline and online.
The strategy proposes a number of initiatives for 2020-2025 that focus on:
- Better coordination by immediately launching a study to work towards possibly creating a new European Centre on child sexual abuse. The centre would build upon best practices from similar centres around the world, such as the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in the US, and it could receive reports of child abuse from companies, support prevention and help assist victims. In addition, cooperation with industry can continue through the EU Internet Forum and improving protection of children globally by promoting multi-stakeholder cooperation through the WePROTECT Global Alliance to End Child Sexual Exploitation Online is also a priority.
- Prevention, addressing the fact that research into what motivates people to offend is scarce and fragmented, and the communication between research and practitioners is minimal. The Commission will work on setting up a prevention network, to support stronger research-practice links (especially on programmes for people who may fear they might offend) and create focused awareness-raising campaigns and media material.
- A strong legal framework that includes complete implementation of existing EU legislation on combating sexual abuse and exploitation of children (Directive 2011/93); identifying legislative gaps, best practices and priority actions; and considering new legislation, particularly to require online service providers to detect and report known sexual abuse material to public authorities.
- Strengthened law enforcement response including an Innovation Hub and Lab to be set up by Europol; working towards the creation of a European Centre to counter child sexual abuse and funding to develop digital capabilities of law enforcement authorities in Member States.
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