10/08/2022, 17.23
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One in 10 Cambodian children is a victim of online sexual abuse

Findings come from a UNICEF report released last week. Boys are the main victims and 23 per cent of respondents told no one about their disturbing experience. Police response has been poor while adults know little about how Internet is affecting teenagers.

Phnom Penh (AsiaNews) – One Cambodian child in 10 has experienced online sexual abuse over the past year, this according to a report released last week.

Titled Disrupting Harm in Cambodia, the study, produced by UNICEF in cooperation with Interpol, the organisation End violence against children, and the Cambodian National Council for Children (part of the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation), shows that 11 per cent of children aged 12 to 17 who use the Internet have experienced some form of online sexual exploitation. That is about 160,000 children.

The study found that 16 per cent received unwanted sexual comments, in 31 per cent of such cases on social media. Another 16 per cent were sent unwanted sexual images, also via social media. About 9 per cent received requests for personal photos. Twice as many boys than girls were victims of this kind of abuse.

Most respondents were able to avoid grooming attempts, but some agreed to talk about sex online (29 per cent), send a photo of their private parts (14 per cent), or accept money or gifts in exchange for recording sex videos.

The report noted that victims had difficulty in accessing a formal reporting mechanism. Most said they did not know where to turn, although many said they talked about it with a friend or a trusted adult male. About 23 per cent did not talk about it with anyone out of fear or shame.

Teens and pre-teens use the Internet much more than their parents or adults in general. “This discrepancy has implications, as caregivers are vital in helping children to navigate their lives online, spot risks and prevent them from coming to harm," the report reads.

Cambodia has two law enforcement units dealing with online sex crimes, the Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Department and the Anti-Cybercrime Department.

Reports of online sexual exploitation increased by 267 per cent between 2017 and 2019, but the Cambodian police response is hampered by poor staff training and a lack of equipment to collect and analyse digital evidence.

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