ReDirection Project: Summarizing Results 2022-2023
Updated: Sep 13
#ReDirection 2023 Blog Post Series 06
Since December 2019, we have been working every day to ensure that no child is subject to any form of sexual violence. We adopt a research-based holistic method, working together with professionals, governments, NGOs, families, victims, and survivors to achieve this goal.
Crimes of sexual violence against children are largely hidden and insufficiently researched. The rapid development of technology, coupled with anonymity features and a lack of child safety mechanisms, resulted in sexual abuse increasingly occurring online and acquiring even more hidden forms. Despite the tremendous scale of online sexual violence against children and its devastating effects, knowledge about these crimes, their scale, and perpetrators remains limited.
We believe that it is crucial to address the crime before harm is done. Thus, in 2020, with the support of the Safe Online Initiative at End Violence, we launched the ReDirection project with the aim to protect children by researching and rehabilitating offenders.
Most existing research on child sexual abuse offenders covers convicted individuals, overlooking child sexual abuse material users or other anonymous offenders that operate online. With the aim of closing this knowledge gap, we developed surveys targeting CSAM users and placed them in the dark web. The surveys are advertised to individuals who search for CSAM on dark web search engines. One survey, ‘Help us to help you’, asks users about their feelings, emotions and behaviors concerning CSAM use. The other survey, ‘No need for help’ asks users why they believe they do not need help.
The surveys allowed Protect Children to collect massive and unprecedented data. From December 2020, over 24,000 individuals have responded to the ReDirection surveys in 21 languages. This data provided unlimited opportunities for Protect Children to conduct innovative research and enhance child protection efforts globally.
Based on this data, our specialists, in strong collaboration with partners, developed the ReDirection Self-Help Program – an anonymous resource helping individuals to stop viewing CSAM. The program is available in English, Finnish, and Spanish and has been visited over 80,000 times.
As the ReDirection surveys allowed Protect Children to collect such diverse and large data, we saw a need to continue the project to conduct further research. With the support of Safe Online Initiative at End Violence, we were able to continue the project for another year.
When working internationally, we concluded that most existing research on perpetrators has been conducted in English, which is not always relevant for the context of other countries and cultures. Therefore, in collaboration with partners, we conducted new research analyzing Russian- and Spanish-speaking CSAM users in the dark web. This allowed us to get insights into a large sample of the population and offer research-based solutions for a broad range of countries where efficient child protection policies are yet to be developed and implemented.
In collaboration with partners, we have also worked on producing a research article investigating CSAM users’ behavior on dark web search engines, looking closer into opportunities for intervention and providing relevant help with positive behavioral change.
Working on enhancing intervention and prevention measures targeting CSAM users, we have developed and piloted the RDChat - an anonymous chat service guiding CSAM users through the ReDirection Self-Help Program. Our specialists used the motivational interviewing technique - an approach that makes the person believe the change is necessary and empowers them to take responsibility for their own health. Direct communication with CSAM users or individuals concerned about their sexual thoughts regarding children helped us better understand the composition of the target group, their treatment needs, barriers, and motivations to change, as well as prevalent cognitive distortions. We compiled the knowledge into a report.
Sharing knowledge & training professionals
As child sexual abuse is a global epidemic, it is important to work in cooperation and widely share any valuable knowledge with the public, law enforcement, and professionals in the field.
To communicate the results of our work in a short and accessible format, we have published a series of six blog posts based on our ReDirection project work. The blog posts introduced readers to the importance of offender-focused prevention and the link between viewing CSAM and in-person offenses, outlined the results of our language reports, and explained the ReDirection Self-Help Program.
During the project extension, we used the ReDirection project data to train over 5,000 professionals and representatives of law enforcement from different countries (e.g. EUROPOL, INTERPOL). We shared our knowledge at large-scale and respected international conferences such as PIER2023 or AIC Conference 2022.
Finally, we organized the ReDirection International Expert Webinar 2023 where global leading experts shared results of their latest work and research on prevention of online child sexual abuse.
We express deep gratitude to our generous funder – Safe Online initiative at End Violence for supporting and trusting in our mission for many years.
Safe Online has invested over US $77M in +100 projects around the world to create a safer internet for children. The Safe Online Initiative, in close partnership with grantees and partners, is leading on global efforts to make the internet safe for children by investing for impact in programs that work and generating evidence to inform advocacy and collective action.
The ReDirection project has made an enormous contribution to preventing and ending child sexual abuse globally. Although the project has come to an end, we are continuing our holistic work to make sure that no child is subject to any form of sexual violence.
Stay tuned! We have added new questions to the ReDirection surveys, asking CSAM users what social media platforms and messengers they use to contact children and view CSAM.
Stay tuned! We are continuing to explore help-seeking behaviour, treatment needs and motivation to change of CSAM users via the ReDirection Self-Help Program.
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