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Disrupting Harm: New project to research online child sexual exploitation in 14 countries

Posted on Mar 18, 2019

Disrupting Harm: Evidence to understand online child sexual exploitation and abuse.

  • Major new collaboration starts this week
  • Researchers will study online child sexual exploitation and abuse in 14 African and Southeast Asian countries
  • ECPAT is one of three partners.
  • ECPAT’s component will cost $2million

A comprehensive two-year scheme began today that will see research undertaken into the online sexual exploitation of children across 14 countries. 

The Fund to End Violence Against Children announced today that the large-scale data collection and research project will be called ‘Disrupting Harm.’ It will assess the scale, nature and context of online child sexual exploitation and abuse in 14 countries across Southern and Eastern Africa and Southeast Asia.

As with all spaces that children inhabit, the digital environment exposes them to risks of sexual exploitation and abuse. And while it is clear that the more time children spend online, the greater the risk – the evidence base to quantify and qualify this risk is lacking in many countries.

The new project, which will be implemented by ECPAT International, together with INTERPOL and the UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti will respond to this reality. It will see research take place in Cambodia, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Mozambique, Namibia, the Philippines, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Thailand, Uganda and Viet Nam. In each country researchers will conduct national assessments based on existing secondary data (such as contextual research, and offence-related data) from multiple sources – as well as:

  • Interviews with national law enforcement and justice actors;
  • Statistics and other information from helpline and hotline operators;
  • In-depth surveys of frontline service providers and welfare staff;
  • Interviews with child victims and survivors;
  • Interviews with parents and caregivers; and
  • Surveys of boys online.

The countries of focus were chosen based on the findings from the 2018 Global Threat Assessment of the WePROTECT Global Alliance and other relevant studies and publications.

With £40 million from the United Kingdom, US$5 million from Human Dignity Foundation and US$5 million from the Oak Foundation, the Fund is already supporting 34 other projects tackling the issue across the world and has so far spent US$ 32.2 million. The ‘Disrupting Harm’ project will cost US$ 6.6 million, with ECPAT’s component costing US$ 2 million.

Findings are expected to be published in the first quarter of 2021. 

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