World Day for the Prevention of and Healing from Child Sexual Exploitation, Abuse and Violence
Last year, the United Nations declared 18 November “World Day for the Prevention of and Healing from Child Sexual Exploitation, Abuse, and Violence”. On this day, we raise awareness of the devastating prevalence and impact of sexual violence against children, and advocate for change to prevent this violence and support healing and justice for survivors.
This blog post was written by Ester Proseku, who works as an intern at Protect Children. Ester is completing her Master’s Degree Programme in International Law and Human Rights at Åbo Akademi University. More information about internships at Protect Children.
Child sexual exploitation, abuse, and violence is a heinous global child rights violation and a serious public health concern. This is a complex crime and phenomenon, characterized by many risk factors and several root causes. Thus, tackling the problem requires cross-disciplinary stakeholders and multi-angled approaches. An additional contributor to the current lack of knowledge and ineffective implemented measures is the low rates of disclosure and the hidden nature of these crimes, due to, among other things, misplaced feelings of shame and guilt experienced by victims and survivors, or the stigmatization of them as well as perpetrators in our society (ECPAT International & WeProtect Global Alliance). However, that does not imply that sexual violence against children is not preventable. At Protect Children, we believe that with evidence-based research and intervention, and by adopting a public health approach, all forms of sexual violence against children online and offline are preventable.
Sexual violence is one of the most adverse and traumatic childhood experiences (ACE) but there are ways to recover with the help of timely, evidence-based treatment and psychosocial support. According to the World Health Organization, child sexual abuse (CSA) is one of the 24 risk factors contributing to the global burden of disease, and many mental health issues and diagnoses have CSA as risk factors (Letourneau et al.). Unfortunately, several studies show that victims of child sexual abuse and exploitation are at an increased risk of revictimization. Therefore, prevention, intervention, and timely support measures for victims of these heinous crimes are necessary to prevent the crimes from occurring and to support the healing of victims-survivors.
Our Role in the Prevention of and Healing from Child Sexual Exploitation, Abuse and Violence
Protect Children implements a child-centered approach within our holistic work, tackling the issue from several different angles to better understand the crime, the perpetrators, and the victims-survivors. We promote child-participation by directly hearing from children and young people to understand their opinions and viewpoints on the issue, and furthermore strongly amplify the voices of the victims-survivors.
Through the “Our Voice” survivor survey, we aim to understand more about the experiences of victims and survivors and collect information on the real-life consequences of crimes of sexual abuse and exploitation against children, as well as the possible obstacles in accessing justice and remedies available for the victims and survivors. Through our Our Voice advocacy work, we amplify the voices of victims-survivors and parents of child victims, to ensure that they are being heard and continue strongly advocating for their rights and needs.
Secondly, we work to eliminate all forms of sexual violence against children through offender-focused prevention. The spread of child sexual abuse material (CSAM) online has reached epidemic proportions, violating the rights and dignity of children, and constituting a significant public health issue. By collecting data directly from offenders, we can adopt stronger preventive measures to combat these crimes and prevent them from occurring in the first place.
Together with our global network of collaborators, we actively raise awareness about the prevalence of child sexual abuse and emerging threats to children’s safety online. The epidemic is global, and European countries are not immune to this exponentially growing phenomenon. In fact, statistics show that a majority of child sexual abuse material is hosted on servers in Europe. Consequently, we need strong concrete measures on a policy and legislative level to create a world where children’s rights to a non-violent childhood can be fully realized, and where challenges faced by survivors are recognized and appropriately mitigated.
To tackle emerging online harms, we need proactive legislation to hold internet service providers accountable and make it possible to efficiently detect, report, and remove CSAM from the internet. The online dimension of child sexual abuse and exploitation requires all EU Member States to take strong action to protect children from all forms of sexual violence online and offline.
Finally, the strongest child-rights approach to protect children is to prevent violence before its materialization. We provide materials to children, families, and educators to develop and build their safety skills and resilience, both online and offline.
Three take-aways on the World Day for the Prevention of and Healing from Child Sexual Exploitation, Abuse and Violence:
Crimes of child sexual exploitation, abuse, and violence are very complex and constitute a public health concern, which require a multi-faceted, holistic response.
Offenders use the continuously developing technological tools to subject children to harm. We need concrete measures on a policy and legislative level to ensure children’s safety online, including making internet service providers accountable and developing offender-focused prevention measures.
Victims and survivors face real-life and long-term consequences. We must listen to their voices and wisdom when developing support measures and to ensure justice.
Protect Children is a non-governmental and non-profit organization based in Helsinki, seeking to prevent any form of sexual violence against children, and to protect and promote the rights of the survivors.
If you stand with our mission of ending all forms of sexual violence against children, consider supporting our work through a one-off or regular donation. Your donations go directly towards supporting our work. You can also show your support by following and sharing our work on social media or subscribing to our monthly newsletter.