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Launch of the Disrupting Harm Report for Ethiopia on Technology and the Sexual Exploitation of Children

Posted on Mar 29, 2022

PRESS RELEASE: 29 March 2022

 

BREAKING – Young people surveyed in Ethiopia believed that people have a degree of responsibility for the online sexual exploitation and abuse that they experience.

 

Country Overview – Ethiopia

Disrupting Harm in Ethiopia is the fifth in a series of evidence-led reports that outlines the harrowing realities of online sexual exploitation and abuse of children in Ethiopia. The report highlighted a number of key findings when dealing with online child sexual exploitation and abuse, particularly in relation to people’s attitudes about sex. 

Based on survey findings, 73% of children and 84% of caregivers agreed with statements that if a person takes naked images or videos of themselves, then it is THEIR fault if those materials are shared with other people.

These attitudes are very concerning, as at least 10% of Ethiopia’s internet-using children aged 12-17 (approximately 300,000 children) were victims of grave instances of online sexual exploitation and abuse, such as blackmailing children to engage in sexual activities and/or coercing them to engage in sexual activities through promises of money or gifts in the last year.

These harmful attitudes about sex may also be impacting reporting online child sexual exploitation and abuse. There were ZERO sexual abuse or exploitation cases involving technology reported by the Ethiopian law enforcement agencies between 2017 and 2019. Yet, children have clearly been targets of this violence.

 

Key findings from Disrupting Harm in Ethiopia include:

  • Children who were subjected to abuse did not tell anyone about it. They typically felt afraid of getting in trouble, did not know where to seek help, and/or felt embarrassed or ashamed.
  • Additionally, reporting mechanisms for children to report sexual abuse and exploitation in Ethiopia are not clear. 57% of children surveyed did not know where to get help if they or a friend were subjected to sexual assault or sexual harassment.
  • According to frontline support staff, a lack of trust in police limits children from disclosing experiences of online child sexual abuse and exploitation, such as grooming. 94% of respondents from the frontline providers survey said that cases are not reported by children because services cannot be trusted.
  • In the survey of frontline workers, one respondent shared, “sometimes it’s family honour, so they don’t want to disclose these issues.” Stigma and discomfort with talking about child abuse are among the main reasons why victims do not report.

 

Despite the lack of reporting, abuse IS happening:

  • 7% of surveyed internet-using children were offered money or gifts in exchange for in-person sexual acts in the past year.
  • 8% were asked to share sexual images of themselves in the past year and about 1 in 7 of these children complied with offenders’ requests.
  • 7% were offered money or gifts for sexual images in the past year. Almost one third of these offers came from family members.
  • 12% were asked to talk about sex or sexual acts with someone in the last year. Children told us these requests left them feeling uncomfortable.

 

To tackle online child sexual exploitation and abuse, Disrupting Harm in Ethiopia notes that authorities, government officials, and leaders need to better equip police officers through specialised training programs centred around combating child sexual exploitation and abuse involving technology. Community engagement is also urgently needed to challenge and break stigmas associated with discussing sex.

Read the full report here and explore more information under the Country Reports tab.

 

About Disrupting Harm

In early 2019, the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children, through its Safe Online initiative, invested $7 million to develop Disrupting Harm, a holistic and innovative research project that aims to better understand how digital technology facilitates the sexual exploitation and abuse of children.

Safe Online brought together and funded three organisations – ECPAT, INTERPOL and the UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti – to undertake new research in 13 countries across Eastern and Southern Africa and Southeast Asia. This type of holistic research and assessment is new and unique in that it uses a multi-sector approach and the specific expertise of these three global agencies and their local partners. The methodology developed for these assessments has been implemented across the 13 countries and can be used by other countries in the future.

 

What is online child sexual exploitation and abuse (OCSEA)?

Online child sexual exploitation and abuse (OCSEA) refers to situations involving digital, internet and communication technologies at some point during the continuum of abuse or exploitation. OCSEA can occur fully online or through a mix of online and in-person interactions between offenders and children.

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