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Fight Online Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children with Research: The Behind the Screen International Conference 

International and local organizations, information and communications technology actors, child rights advocates, social workers, researchers, and other stakeholders join forces in a research conference to combat online sexual abuse and exploitation of children. Join us in Behind the Screen: International Conference on Online Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children!  

Digital technology has ushered in great advances in society, but it has also introduced new threats and crimes that prey on vulnerable children. As the number of individuals utilizing the internet grows, a new form of trafficking known as Online Sexual Exploitation of Children (OSEC) is emerging. Southeast Asian nations including Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam, have been targets of foreign and domestic offenders, with the Philippines being the global epicenter since 20161. Several countries in different regions detected alarming increases in the demand of child sexual abuse materials (CSAM) as offenders are confined at home with more opportunities to connect with children who are online in their homes as well2.  

During the early months of the pandemic in May 2022, the Department of Justice (DOJ) revealed that reports of online sexual abuse and exploitation of children (OSAEC) increased three-fold in the Philippines in March to May 2020 compared to the same period in 20193. To add to the worsening situation, CSAM does not stay in the deep web anymore. During the pandemic, it was found that videos and photos containing sexual abuse of children were being sold on social media (Twitter, Facebook) and messaging applications (Telegram) for as low as 100php4.  

The rising incidence of OSAEC may be influenced by strict lockdowns implemented all over the country which worsened the economic status of millions of Filipino families, who are at the same time stuck at home with access to the internet. Poverty and internet access have long been found to be strong drivers of OSAEC in the country. The pandemic restrictions may have already eased in 2022 but the economic conditions resulting from COVID-19 remain as more Filipinos are found to be unemployed (3.27 million) and underemployed (6.81 million) by December 20215. The Philippines’ struggle to manage the health crisis was made more challenging by typhoons striking the country compounding the health, economic, psychosocial, and protection consequences on the population.  

The worsening situation for children all over the world calls for evidence-based practices that should inform the prevention, protection, and prosecution of OSAEC. It will be beneficial to stakeholders to understand the status of and gaps in existing practices on prevention and protection measures, as well as the prosecution process of OSAEC. With this information, we can gain more support to improve the quality of care and services to child survivors and their families.  

To update OSAEC protection actors on the new empirical data available, several local and international organizations come together to organize the Behind the Screen International Conference on OSAEC. The research conference will gather researchers from different disciplines to share their research studies on OSEAC on November 8-9, 2022, 8:00 AM-5:00 PM. Interested individuals and parties can join the conference for free either online (via Zoom) or in-person (limited seats).  The submission of abstracts is still open and conference registration is ongoing. 

This international conference is presented by World Hope International (WHI), Sexual Violence Research Initiative (SVRI), The Salvation Army (TSA), World Vision’s Project Against Child Exploitation (ACE), Child Rights Network (CRN), and PLDT Home in partnership with De La Salle University – Social Development Research Center (DLSU-SDRC), National Association for Social Work Education, Inc. (NASWEI), University of the Philippines Junior Social Workers’ Association of the Philippines (UP JSWAP), Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Child Sexual Abuse (CPTCSA), and Break The Silence National Network (BTSNN).