On 21 February 2023, the European Commission held a CERIS workshop under the general theme of Fighting Crime and Terrorism (FCT), in Brussels, to discuss the priorities, roadmaps, and best practices of EU-funded security research projects focusing on the fight against Child Sexual Abuse (CSA).
The exponential development of the digital world and ready availability of online technology has facilitated child sexual abuse, increasing reports of this crime dramatically. Offenders utilise online spaces to find, make contact with, groom, abuse, and exploit children. They are also able to connect with each other, share child sexual abuse material (CSAM) and normalise these crimes. This use of online technology has also brought about new trends, such as livestreaming of abuse and self-generated child sexual abuse material. The event also covered societal aspects of this crime, including pathways and factors that could lead to offending and how to prevent and detect offences.
To open the event, Marta Cygan, Director of Innovation and Audit of DG HOME, contextualised this issue, which has been one of the priorities for Commissioner Ylva Johansson:
“During the first wave of the global pandemic of COVID-19, there was an increased online activity in dedicated forums by offenders exploiting opportunities to engage with children who were more vulnerable due to isolation, greater online exposure, and less supervision.”
In her keynote speech, Annette Cassar, Policy Officer for the Fight against Child Sexual Abuse in the DG HOME unit for Security in the Digital Age restated some of the Commission’s priorities on this subject, according to the eight legislative and operational measures undertaken under the EU Strategy for a more Effective Fight Against Child Sexual Abuse. These measures aim at a holistic view of the issue and an effective and global multi-stakeholder response to combat this borderless crime.
The event hosted two simultaneous discussions between practitioners, researchers, policymakers and stakeholders;
- The first panel focused on the detection of CSA and CSAM, looking at tools to help Law Enforcement Agencies to investigate these crimes. These tools can be used to influence policy, and possibly lead to redefining certain actions in legal codes to facilitate the prosecution of CSA crimes.
- The second panel was focused on the prevention of CSA. This requires work on the societal side of the issue, to better understand factors and pathways to offending, peer on peer abuse, and how to encourage potential offenders to seek help without fear of recriminations, in line with a public health approach to this problem.
The event brought together a number of projects that aim to improve prevention and combatting of child sexual abuse and demonstrated the added value of Horizon Europe and ISF projects in developing greater capabilities to achieve policy objectives. It also underpinned the significant work needed to surmount the challenges around access to information and operational data, which slows research progress. Lastly, it was made clear in this event that exploitation and uptake of research and projects’ results needs to be strengthened at EU level to prevent duplication of efforts, and build solid foundations for future research on this topic.
- Publication date
- 7 March 2023
- Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs