CAMBODIA—The ground-breaking Disrupting Harm in Cambodia report found that 11% of internet-using children aged 12-17 had experienced clear examples of online sexual exploitation and abuse in the year prior to being surveyed.
If scaled to Cambodia’s population within this age group, that represents an estimated 160,000 children who were subjected to various forms of online sexual exploitation and abuse.
The Disrupting Harm in Cambodia report found that very few children who were subjected to online sexual exploitation and abuse reported it through formal reporting mechanisms. Survey data with children indicated that one common barrier to reporting and disclosure was not knowing where to go or who to tell. One parent said:
“I want to share information about online sexual abuse and exploitation so that it is better known and understood. At the moment, vulnerable children don’t know about it, so they don’t know who can help them. By sharing information about it, so that it’s out in the open, will help children be brave enough to share what they are experiencing.”
For some children in Cambodia, stigma and taboos regarding discussions of sex also impacted reporting. Children interviewed in Disrupting Harm shared that they often felt a sense of shame, embarrassment, and fear when talking about sex and/or reporting experiences of online sexual exploitation and abuse. 35 out of 50 frontline workers surveyed for Disrupting Harm also noted that they expected stigma was a barrier to people’s willingness to report. Additionally, one frontline worker noted:
“It is a culture where we do not talk about sex. The percentage of unreported sexual abuse cases is high because sometimes children are scared or shy to talk about it. When abuse has happened, they are often too scared to speak out because of this culture.”
The report also highlighted the need for greater awareness about the options available to tackle these crimes. When discussing the legal measures available, one case intake specialist said, “People do not understand the legal process that is involved, including the complaint process.” Additionally, the report found that Cambodian law enforcement agencies have limited access to specialist training and personnel needed to appropriately manage cases related to online child sexual exploitation and abuse.
To help keep children safe online, the Disrupting Harm in Cambodia report recommends building greater awareness of online child sexual exploitation and abuse across the country. This can contribute to breaking down stigma and taboos, increasing reporting, and dedicating specialist resources committed to addressing the issue.
Read the full report here and explore more information under the Country Reports tab.
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