The Philippines, 20 April 2022
BREAKING—New report estimates that at least 2 million children in the Philippines were subjected to online sexual abuse and exploitation in the past year alone. 96% of 12-17 year olds in the Philippines are online – they all face the risk of online sexual abuse and exploitation.
Disrupting Harm in the Philippines is the sixth in a series of evidence-led reports that outlines the harrowing realities of online sexual exploitation and abuse of children in the Philippines. The report found that 20% of internet-using children aged 12-17 had experienced online sexual exploitation and abuse in the last year alone. If scaled to the population, the report estimates that as many as two million children could be experiencing grave instances of online sexual exploitation and abuse in the Philippines. Experiences reported by children included grooming, being offered gifts or money in exchange for sexual acts, and being threatened or blackmailed to engage in sexual acts.
Disrupting Harm in the Philippines also found that the internet is being misused to facilitate the abuse of children by family members and/or someone the child already knows, often referred to as ‘facilitating offenders’. One frontline worker interviewed said that in most of the cases of online child sexual exploitation and abuse she was aware of, family members had facilitated the abuse:
“The survivors will say that they came from a loving family. The thing about online child sexual abuse and exploitation that I observed is that the bond between the victim and the perpetrator is stronger and more important than the exploitation that happened.”
Other key insights from the report include:
Currently, the high number of cases makes it hard for authorities to keep up with those who are willing and able to report. Insufficient staff and training were the two main issues mentioned by government representatives when talking about the response to online child sexual exploitation and abuse. One social worker told us:
“We really lack manpower, so much so that one social worker may be responsible for around 300 cases of child survivors.”
Prevention is vital to tackling online child sexual exploitation and abuse. Proactive measures will be required to respond to increased reports of suspected online sexual exploitation and abuse in the Philippines, submitted by social media platforms to the U.S. National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). Between 2017 and 2019, reports increased by an alarming 479%.
Disrupting Harm in the Philippines highlights the need for further awareness and understanding of the issue to be established in the country; more resources to be allocated to those responding to the significant and urgent need to be provided; and legal processes in place to hold offenders to account.
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.