Indonesia, 29 September 2022
BREAKING—Children in Indonesia are not reporting online child sexual exploitation and abuse. More than 80% of the frontline workers surveyed believed that the discomfort around discussing sex and the stigma from the community discourage reporting.
A new report released today by ECPAT, INTERPOL, and UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti, found that children in Indonesia are being subjected to online sexual abuse and exploitation, but are not reporting it.
The Disrupting Harm in Indonesia report revealed that stigma relating to any discussions around sex were discouraging children from raising concerns and reporting instances of sexual abuse. Additionally, frontline workers interviewed as part of the study said that they believed that the stigmatisation of victims of sexual violence in Indonesia also prevented children from reporting online child sexual exploitation and abuse. For example, 76% of 995 children and 85% of their caregivers surveyed said they believed that it is a child’s fault if sexual images or videos they created are shared with someone else. This further fails to account for the fact that self-generated sexual content may be obtained through coercion or deception.
When children do not know about sex, it enables offenders to take advantage of them. Disrupting Harm in Indonesia found that children’s knowledge and understanding of online safety and sex were also lacking. 41% of children had never received any information on how to stay safe online. 72% of children surveyed said they had not received any sex education, and of the children who did receive sex education, 85% said it mostly pertained to morality. Comprehensive sex education should provide children with relevant, age-appropriate, and factual information so they are prepared against offenders attempting to harm them.
There is also a concerning lack of understanding that online child sexual exploitation and abuse should be considered a serious crime in Indonesia. One frontline worker said, “It is not yet understood by the general public that sexual abuse against children can happen online, without the need to meet between the victim and the offender.” Interviews with government representatives also indicated that public awareness of online child sexual exploitation and abuse in Indonesia is low.
Of the children who do report the online abuse they are subjected to, very few children directly report to formal reporting mechanisms, such as the police. Most cases that are progressed by law enforcement stem from reports made by adults on their behalf. Furthermore, Indonesian government representatives said that although online child sexual exploitation and abuse is a rising threat in Indonesia, the government’s current efforts to address it are limited.
Despite the low number of formal reports, children in Indonesia are clearly being subjected to online sexual abuse and exploitation. Disrupting Harm in Indonesia data showed that 2% of internet-using children aged 12-17 years old reported experiencing clear examples of sexual abuse and exploitation online, such as children being threatened or blackmailed to engage in sexual activities, within the past year. This number is likely an under-reporting of the reality, because children may be uncomfortable disclosing these experiences.
In order to tackle online child sexual exploitation and abuse in Indonesia, comprehensive efforts to educate the public, and urgent funding inputs are needed. The availability of support services is currently limited by insufficient human and financial resources, weak coordination, and a lack of services that reach all areas. These challenges must be urgently addressed to keep children safe online.
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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.