Global online abuse of kids has increased due to virus - GulfToday

Global online abuse of kids has increased due to virus

Online safety for children a key issue

Photo has been used for illustrative purpose.

Mariecar Jara-Puyod, Senior Reporter

An alliance of 98 governments, 53 companies, 61 civil society groups and nine international organisations has confirmed the wickedness of the widely available Internet and its numerous dark websites against children – even those below five years old-worldwide – said to have worsened through the over a year Novel Coronavirus (COVID19) global disaster.

This is the WeProtect Global Alliance which released on Monday its “Global Threat Assessment 2021.” Through a virtual press conference, its executive director Iain Drennan and Middle East and North Africa (MENA) official/UAE Ministry of Interior-International Affairs Bureau director general Lt/ Col. Dana Humaid called for a full stop of online child sexual harm by way of preventive measures, one of which is safer and more secured technology.

The report, among other participants, had 5,000 18 to 20-year-old respondents from 54 countries. Of the 411 from the MENA, 181 (44 per cent) said they had become victims.

Gulf Today was furnished a copy of the report. An entry was from the Lucy Faithfull Foundation claiming only 15 to 20 per cent of the offenders are paedophiles: “Child sexual abuse is often perpetrated by family members, with indications this has been exacerbated by COVID-19 restrictions. And while some offenders are motivated by sexual interest in children, this is not exclusively the case. We must continue to improve our understanding of the various pathways to offending, to inform future deterrence and prevention of abuse.”

Drennan said: “Child sexual exploitation and abuse online is one of the urgent and defining issues of our generation. The Internet has become central to children’s lives across the world, even more so as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the past two years, we have observed an increase in the scale and complexity of child abuse online. This report should act as a wake-up call to us all; together we must step up the global response and create a safer digital world for all children.”

Humaid said: “(The report is) an opportunity to reflect and prioritise efforts and engage with the international community and share our experiences and practices. (It) can be used by governments to guide their efforts. The challenge of sexual exploitation and abuse online is a crime of global magnitude and requires collaborative and multi-disciplinary efforts to combat and end it.”

Drennan presented the case of Olive (pseudonym). So Medeor Hospital (Dubai) psychiatrist Dr. Shaju George was interviewed: “Both the offender and the victim need help from mental health professionals.”

George profiled the adolescent to middle-aged offenders as possibly with a past childhood sexual abuse, broken family background, evolving/evolved personality profiles, or substance abuse history. The children – victims are with low-esteem, dependent personality traits, and poor assertive skills – are easily coerced, threatened, and persuaded: “It could start as a natural curiosity, instinct or hormonal changes and later taking the path of abuse. Parents must spend more time with their children and develop in them the trust and confidence they need to communicate with them their issues and concerns.”

Olive (pseudonym) subsequently suffered from low self-worth and mental difficulties she had to endure for receiving “hundreds of email requests from various men around the world” she had been referred to after meeting a man through a gaming app. The man beguiled and “groomed” (implicit sexual harm and abuse by way of gaining trust and confidence) her to pornographic sites, when she  was age 10. She got scared. She wanted the abuse to stop. She unlocked the privacy of her mobile phone in order that her father would come to learn her of burden. The UK-based Marie Collins Foundation rescued her.

The “Global Threat Assessment 2021” also boxed the case of Ruby (pseudonym). Her predator was a human trafficker. She was duped to work at a computer shop by way of free travel expenditure and free board and lodging. She was threatened with a knife in her escape attempt.

The report indicated Philippine authorities came to know about her circumstances by way of the non-government organisation International Justice Mission. It quoted her: “I am paid for every disgusting show that I will do in front of the computer camera with the customer.

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