Keeping Children #SafeOnline Requires Offender-Focused Prevention & Intervention
#ReDirection 2023 Blog Post Series 01
Sexual violence is a grave issue that affects millions of children and young people around the world. It can have devastating consequences for victims, including physical, psychological and emotional harm, as well as long-term social and economic consequences.
Sexual violence against children is increasingly taking place online, through grooming, extortion, and the spread of child sexual abuse material online. There has been a dramatic increase in the dissemination and availability of child sexual abuse material online in recent years.
Why Do We Need Offender-Focused Prevention?
Efforts to turn the tide on online child sexual violence have proven unsuccessful. As such, there has been increasing recognition of the importance of prevention to strengthen efforts to stop the violence before it occurs.
At Protect Children, a Finnish NGO dedicated to ending all forms of sexual violence against children, we approach the prevention of sexual violence from several angles. We strengthen children’s digital safety skills so that children and young people are better equipped to recognise and respond to risks they encounter online. We also provide support for victims and families, which not only helps with recovery, but can prevent re-victimisation.
We also work to change illegal and harmful behaviour of online offenders, to prevent future offences before they occur. In order to keep children safe, we need to take our efforts directly to those committing crimes against children. This is what we call offender-focused prevention.
The ReDirection Project
Since 2020, Protect Children has been working to keep children safe online by researching anonymous online offenders, and developing new intervention resources to stop offenders from viewing child sexual abuse material. The ReDirection project is funded by the #SafeOnline Initiative at End Violence.
What Does 'Offender-Focused Prevention' Entail in Practice?
Offender-focused prevention is an evidence-based approach to preventing child sexual violence which focuses on identifying and addressing the root causes of offending behaviour, rather than simply responding to individual cases. By addressing the root causes of sexual violence, it is possible to reduce the risk of abuse by preventing potential offenders from acting on their desires.
One of the key elements of offender-focused prevention is intervention and treatment. This involves providing offenders and those who fear that they might offend with the necessary resources to address underlying causes of their offending behaviour. This includes providing them with information and help to understand their behaviour and how it harms their victims and providing them with the necessary tools and resources to help them refrain from offending in the future.
Protect Children’s evidence-based intervention resource for individuals who use child sexual abuse material, the ReDirection Self-Help Program, uses cognitive-behavioural theory methods to address underlying causes of offending behaviour.
Feedback from users of the ReDirection program suggests that the program successfully decreases use of child sexual abuse material. 74% of the users self-reported that they reduced their use, or completely stopped using child sexual abuse material after starting the program. Read more.
Offender-focused prevention can help to reduce the prevalence of child sexual abuse and its associated costs, such as medical and legal costs, as well as the long-term physical, psychological and emotional consequences. Offender-focused prevention is an important, evidence-based part of a comprehensive and holistic approach to preventing sexual violence against children.
By addressing the underlying causes of offending behaviour, it is possible to reduce the risk of future abuse and improve the safety and wellbeing of children and young people.
In 2023, Protect Children will be strengthening its offender-focused prevention approach in a number of new projects funded by the European Commission, including Project BRIDGE, Project 2KNOW, and the 2PS project.