On 18 November, the European Day on the Protection of Children against Sexual Abuse and Sexual Exploitation, the European Commission reconfirms its determination to fight Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation with all the tools at its disposal. This year’s edition focuses on “Preventing risky behavior by children: child self-generated sexual images and/or videos”.
Over the last years, there has been a staggering increase in the reported cases of child sexual abuse and exploitation. The COVID-19 crisis has further deteriorated the situation. In particular, there has been an increase of self-generated material.
Child sexual abuse is a serious crime with long-lasting consequences. It has both offline and online components, demanding a comprehensive and global response. Given the scourge of child sexual abuse in the EU and globally, it is essential that all actors – governments, industry, civil society and others – come together to work out a common and coordinated solution to prevent and tackle child sexual abuse in all its forms, both in the offline and online environments and better protect victims.
The Commission is using all of the tools at its disposal to fight against child sexual abuse: legislation, coordination and funding.
This year, the Commission has adopted a comprehensive EU strategy for a more effective fight against child sexual abuse. The Strategy sets out initiatives to boost coordination, including a prevention network for practitioners and researchers, and examining the possibility to create a European Centre to prevent and counter child sexual abuse, cooperating with industry and promoting multi-stakeholder cooperation.
The first initiative under the Strategy is a proposed Regulation to ensure that providers of online communications services can continue their voluntary measures for the detection and reporting of child sexual abuse online, and removal of child sexual abuse material.
As the next step, in 2021, the Commission will propose long-term legislation to tackle child sexual abuse online effectively, including by requiring relevant companies to detect and report to public authorities known materials.
In terms of operational actions, Europol provides support to operations such as the recent action targeting child trafficking. The agency also monitors criminal trends in the Internet Organised Crime Threat Assessment (IOCTA) and dedicated reports on the evolution of threats, including child sexual abuse, and cybercrime in the times of COVID19.
Anyone can help to combat child sexual abuse in the EU through Europol’s campaigns: Trace An Object, requesting your assistance in identifying the origin of objects found in images of child sexual abuse, and EU Most Wanted, which circulates the images of Europe’s Most Wanted Fugitives, including child sex offenders.