Online sexual abuse thrives in families, communities—study

Online sexual abuse thrives not just in families but in communities – study

/ 05:35 AM April 23, 2024

Online sexual abuse thrives not just in families but in communities–study

PROTECTING KIDS Students, teachers and government officials gather for the Safer Internet Day orientation in Pasay City on Feb. 13, an activity that aims to educate and empower young internet users amid the growing incidents of cybercrime and online sexual abuse and exploitation of children. —Photo by Marianne Bermudez, Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines — The cycle of online sexual abuse affecting minors in the country does not thrive only within families, but also among communities vulnerable to such criminal activities that supposedly promise a lucrative “cottage industry.”

This was among the conclusions from a two-year study jointly conducted by the London-based organization Justice and Care, De La Salle University-Manila and Dublin City University (DCU).


READ: PH battles online child sex abuse


The study, titled “Facilitation of Online Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children (OSAEC) in the Philippines,” noted that a “strong contagion effect” prevailed in communities with “conduits” who introduce and train potential perpetrators as well as victims about OSAEC activities.

READ: Girl, 13, shoots father dead over sexual abuse in Batangas

“While… OSAEC activity has its roots in economic deprivation and poverty… new facilitators [were] being actively inducted to OSAEC activity and mentored by friends, neighbors or family members who were involved in the crime,” said the report, which was presented at a forum on April 18.

Worse, minors exposed to such violence in their early years within their own neighborhood “grew up to engage in OSAEC activities themselves,” the study said.

Angelo Tapales, executive director of the Council for the Welfare of Children, said the Philippines remained a “hot spot” of “online and offline” sexual exploitation of minors, with more than 17,680 cases of child rights violations reported last year to the Women and Children Protection Center of the Philippine National Police.

The study found that most “facilitators” of online sexual abuse were female family members or a “trusted” friend or neighbor, usually from 25 to 61 years old. “These facilitators tended to prey mainly on girls,” while “child-on-child or sibling-on-sibling” abuse among boys was “common.”


These victims were “supplied” to adult cybersex and dating websites and online chat apps whose consumers were usually foreigners. The children joined “prerecorded or live camera shows,” while others were hired as “models.”

Income loss, trauma

Convicted perpetrators interviewed for the report confirmed this pattern of sexual abuse across generations.

The “lure of making ‘easy money’ was a powerful motivator” among perpetrators, the study said, adding that they had “few, if any, opportunities for employment that allowed a living wage that would support a family.”

Because these crimes take place in “tight-lipped” communities, it is “rare” that these are reported to authorities, said Maggie Brennan of Dublin City University, the report’s principal investigator.

“[Some were] reluctant to report, not wanting to betray their family or strip them of their only source of income,” she told the forum.

Just last week, the National Bureau of Investigation arrested a 27-year-old mother in Gingoog City, Misamis Oriental province, for pimping her own daughters online.

Apart from the expected income loss, the trauma caused by the arrest or imprisonment of family or close friends hinders victims from reaching out to authorities.

Such trauma “can have serious life course implications for children, particularly in cases when family separation is occurring,” said Brennan, who is an assistant professor of psychology.

“In some cases, access to interventions… like family care after arrest and during the prosecution period, is impossible,” she added.

Kinship care

Among the report’s recommendations are “psychoeducation and government support for non-offending family members” of OSAEC survivors.

Groups like the Center for Prevention and Treatment for Child Sexual Abuse (CPTCSA) also urge the government to look into how “kinship care”—a form of alternative child care for minors unable to live with parents following their traumatic experiences—could be further strengthened and institutionalized in child protection and adoption programs.

According to Zenaida Rosales, executive director of CPTCSA, the present course of action for OSAEC survivors is their admission to such institutions as those established by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

“But in the long term… institutions are not the best place for these children. They must be returned to a healthy environment… because according to studies, children will easily recover from trauma when they are in a famil[ial] setup,” she said in a forum in February. But she acknowledges that this remains a “challenge” for social workers.

Foster, subsidized care

Republic Act No. 11642 or the Domestic Administrative Adoption and Alternative Child Care Act cites kinship care as one of the alternative child care options for minors who were abused, exploited, and are in conflict with the law or in the middle of crisis situations and armed conflicts.

Kinship care is defined as an “out-of-home arrangement for full-time care by relatives of the child… within the fourth degree of consanguinity or affinity.”

Citing data from the National Authority for Child Care (NACC), an attached agency of the DSWD, Tapales says 1,493 children are in foster care, with 890 having subsidized child care—those whose foster parents are supported by the government.

That data, he said, does not yet indicate which of these children have kinship care.

“In pushing for foster care, we should also prioritize or consider relatives because perhaps they are the best people to take care of their own relatives, other than their parents,” Tapales said in the forum.

If qualified, a child’s relative will be licensed as a foster parent by the NACC, he said. “Since they will be licensed foster parents, they should be supported by the government.”

“If we go [by the law], it’s really a declared policy that a child should remain with the family, but in cases where for some reason… for example, the parents are involved in sexual abuse, they will be removed from the core family,” Tapales said.

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“But there is a declaration that we should exert earnest effort to find appropriate placement within the family first, and not to strangers,” he said.

TAGS: CPTCSA, NBI, online sexual abuse, OSAEC

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