Namibia, 12 September 2022
BREAKING—New report shows children in Namibia are afraid to report experiences of online sexual abuse.
The ground-breaking Disrupting Harm in Namibia research estimates that at least 20,000 children* experienced clear examples of online sexual exploitation and abuse in the last year alone. This included blackmailing children to engage in sexual activities, sharing their sexual images without permission, or coercing them to engage in sexual activities through promises of money or gifts. It is believed that the actual number of children experiencing abuse online may be higher, since many children do not report the abuse they are subjected to.
30% of children who had experienced abuse online did not disclose their experiences to anyone, citing fear and lack of awareness on whom or where to report to. One child said:
“No, I did not [report] because I was afraid. My mom had warned me not to communicate with people I do not know on social media, so I was afraid that she would criticise me for doing that.”
18% of children surveyed (175 out of 994) were subjected to sexual comments online that made them feel uncomfortable in the past year. 43% of these 175 children did not tell anyone. Additionally, 9% of the total surveyed children were asked online to talk about sex or sexual acts with someone, and 9% of the total surveyed children were asked for a photo or video showing their private parts when they did not want to in the past year. 37% of the children who were asked online to talk about sex or sexual acts did not tell anyone (19 out of 85). Children were more likely to disclose sexual abuse and exploitation online to their friends, rather than to formal reporting mechanisms, such as hotlines or the police.
Disrupting Harm in Namibia also found that 80% of online sexual abuse and exploitation offenders were someone the child already knew. These were often intimate partners and adult friends and family members. Someone unknown to the child was responsible for about one in four instances of online child sexual exploitation and abuse identified in the household survey.
The report revealed that more girls than boys received unwanted requests for a photo showing their private parts, were more often offered money or gifts in return for sexual images or videos, and were more often subjected to sexual comments that made them feel uncomfortable. The research found that boys risk being left behind when trying to access support services after experiencing online sexual abuse. One frontline worker said “More girls report than boys. Lately the attention on boys is lagging behind, as most of the programmes focus on girls.”
Researchers for Disrupting Harm in Namibia found public awareness is still growing about the risks of online child sexual exploitation and abuse. One frontline worker shared:
“Online child sexual exploitation and abuse is a new form of violence, thus the government is still trying to see how best to address the situation.”
There is an increasing need for a dedicated, specialised police unit to handle online child abuse cases, which currently poses a challenge. One frontline worker told Disrupting Harm researchers:
“In my opinion, there are not enough law enforcement resources specially trained police who can address online child sexual abuse and exploitation in efficient and timely manner.”
Read the full report here and explore more information under the Country Reports tab.
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*9% of internet-using children aged 12-17 experienced clear examples of online sexual abuse and exploitation. When scaled to the population, this is at least 20,000 children.
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.