Disrupting Harm

Providing concrete understanding of the prevalence of Online Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (OCSEA) in 13 countries in order to inform decision making, policy and capacity building.

Project Title: Disrupting Harm

Timeframe:  Three years, March 2019 - March 2022

Budget and donor: Fund to End Violence Against Children – USD 1.8 million

The situation

The Internet can be a powerful tool for children to connect, explore, learn, and engage in creative and empowering ways. As with other settings in which children live and grow, the online environment may expose them to risks of sexual exploitation and abuse. The scarcity of available evidence in many countries makes it difficult to know the frequency and severity of the harm to children and prevents evidence-based, constructive recommendations for prevention and response by governments.

About the Project

Informed by the 2018 WeProtect Global Alliance Threat Assessment, the Fund to End Violence Against Children decided to invest in research to strengthen the evidence base, with a particular focus on 13 countries across Eastern and Southern Africa and Southeast Asia.

Three partners - ECPAT International, INTERPOL and UNICEF – will work in partnership to design and implement a multifaceted research project on online child sexual exploitation and abuse: Disrupting Harm. The project will generate new and unique evidence about the scope and nature of online child sexual exploitation and abuse in seven countries in Southern and Eastern Africa (Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda) and six in Southeast Asia (Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam).

Data will be synthesised from nine different research activities to generate each national report, which tells the story of the threat and presents clear recommendations for action. This type of high-quality research and assessment is new and unique because it uses a multi-sector approach to combine the specialized expertise of the three global agencies and their local partners. 

Disrupting Harm will provide comprehensive research on online child sexual exploitation and abuse, presenting the risks children face online, how they develop, links to other forms of violence and what can be done to protect children. Disrupting Harm will use holistic and innovative methodology to conduct comprehensive assessments of the context, threats and children’s perspectives.

Project activities

National assessments were conducted based on nine distinct research activities in each country. Data collection took place from early 2020 through to early 2021 and focused on the three-year period of 2017-2019. During an extensive analysis phase, the data from all the research activities was triangulated to inform the 13 country reports.

ECPAT conducted a comprehensive analysis of the existing research, legislation, policy, and systems addressing online child sexual exploitation and abuse for each target country, as well as collected data in the 13 countries.

INTERPOL collected qualitative and quantitative OCSEA data from law enforcement. Data was gathered from law enforcement agencies and relevant specialised units working in this crime area. In addition to the information collected from national law enforcement agencies and specialised units, INTERPOL also requested data and qualitative insights from a number of partner organisations. The information was put through a process of analysis to develop threat assessments on OCSEA in the project’s target countries.

In addition to seeking data on OCSEA cases, INTERPOL requested data on the capacity of national law enforcement authorities to respond to this type of crime and interviewed serving officers.

Particular emphasis was placed on human resources, access to specialist equipment and training, investigative procedures and the use of tools for international cooperation, achievements and challenges.

UNICEF conducted nationally-representative household surveys with around 1,000 children and 1,000 of their parents or caregivers in the 13 target countries. This was done to understand children’s use of the internet, the risks and opportunities they face online.

Project updates

Report 1: Disrupting Harm in Kenya

Data collection took place with the cooperation of the Government of Kenya and a wide range of public bodies and other organizations. A comprehensive analysis was made of the legislation, policy and systems addressing OCSEA in Kenya. A range of statistical data was gathered for 2017-2019. Surveys were conducted with internet-using children, their caregivers and front- line service providers from private and civil society. Interviews were held with high-level government officials, law enforcement officials, justice professionals, and child victims of OCSEA and their caregivers. In addition, trauma-informed expert practitioners led a number of unstructured one-on-one conversations with survivors of OCSEA. All the information was then analysed and triangulated. The analysis for Disrupting Harm in Kenya was finalized in May 2021. The recommendations were discussed further at a national consultation in Nairobi in June 2021.