Sexual exploitation and sexual abuse of children can happen online, on a phone, on the streets or through a webcam, at home or at school. It can be inflicted by someone in the child’s circle of trust or even a stranger and can cause lifelong damage to the child’s physical and mental health.
The Council of Europe has been involved in the protection of children against all forms of violence including sexual exploitation and abuse for a long time. In 2007, the Council adopted the Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse also known as the Convention of Lanzarote which entered into force in 2010. Moreover, to help the Convention, the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers launched a campaign to stop sexual violence against children. In 2015, it decided to go one step further by setting up the first European Day for the Protection of Children Against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse, also known as End Child Sex Abuse Day.
The End Child Sex Abuse Day follows the important work and impact resulting from the recently completed Council of Europe ONE in FIVE Campaign to stop sexual violence against children. Its annual objectives are to raise public awareness, open discussion, and ratify and implement the Lanzarote Convention.
Getting it right: ensuring child-friendly justice through Barnahus structures in Europe
The theme of this year’s Day on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse is ‘Getting it right: ensuring child-friendly justice through Barnahus structures in Europe’.
According to the Council of Europe, Barnahus, also called Children’s House, is the leading European child-friendly multidisciplinary and interagency (MDIA) response model for child sexual abuse.
Its unique approach brings together all relevant services under one roof, to avoid re-victimisation of the child during investigation and court proceedings and provide every child with a coordinated and effective response. The core purpose of Barnahus is to coordinate parallel criminal and child welfare investigations and help produce valid evidence for judicial proceedings by eliciting the child’s disclosure. The child victims and witnesses of violence also receive support and assistance, including medical evaluation and treatment, in a safe environment for children.
This year, five Council of Europe member States (Andorra, Belgium, Monaco, San Marino and Slovenia) and supported by 40 other Council of Europe Member States as well as by Mexico issued a joint statement to show support for the day and ending sexual abuse. “We will continue our efforts on fighting against sexual exploitation and sexual abuse beyond ratification of the Lanzarote Convention, and we will look forward for an effective implementation of its provisions, and in this sense, we advocate for the promotion of structures inspired by the Barnahus model, as an example of child-friendly, multidisciplinary and interagency response.”
Better Internet for Kids for the European Day on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse
Here on the Better Internet for Kids portal, we recognise the importance of this international day and we join the Council of Europe in their important work of preventing sexual abuse online. Child sexual abuse online has proven to be a fast-growing problem with more than 3,000 reports globally in 1998, 100,000 reports in 2014, more than 1 million reports in 2014, and 85 million reports last year. It is important that the abuse is detected and reported, as that is key to preventing and stopping child sexual abuse in real life.
In May this year, the European Commission announced a new proposal in May 2022 to prevent and fight the problem of child sexual abuse online and the spread of child sexual abuse material (CSAM). The proposal was announced together with a new European strategy for a Better Internet for Kids (called BIK+) and follows the EU strategy for a more effective fight against child sexual abuse, which was launched in 2020 and calls for a strong legal framework.
Have a look at our work, articles and resources on the topic of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse online:
- INHOPE and Better Internet for Kids (BIK) coordinate the network of Safer Internet Centres (SICs) in Europe. INHOPE focuses on member hotline activities dedicated to the removal of illegal content online, specifically child sexual abuse materials (CSAM). Find more information on the work and activities of the Insafe and INHOPE network of Safer Internet Centres (SICs) on the BIK portal.
- Child sexual abuse and its spread online is a big problem, and its scale is intensifying. In 2021, there were 85 million photos and videos reported worldwide that depicted child sexual abuse and many more go unreported. The European Commission acknowledges the importance and urgency of addressing child sexual abuse and announced a dedicated proposal in May 2022. Read more about the proposal.
- The culture and environment, the medium of communication and how we perceive certain words and tones are all factors that contribute to how we consume content. These factors and more impact how a reader will react to a news report. It is therefore important that journalists and publications alike apply guidelines when reporting on sensitive topics, such as child sexual abuse and exploitation, to ensure that the story being told is not also influenced by subjective factors. Learn more about how to report CSAM for journalists.
- Save the Children Finland hosts a seminar every year on the topic of child sexual abuse. Last year, the emphasis of the webinar was on transnational cooperation and its important role in fighting child sexual abuse, particularly in online environments. A wide range of organisations working to prevent child sexual abuse and alleviate the harm it may cause participated. Find out more about the annual seminar.