Civil Society and Child Rights Organisations’ Open Letter to the European Union 

November 18, 2022 – European Day on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse

Every child should have the chance to be safe, curious, and happy – to simply be a kid. Unfortunately, the
reality of childhood is very different for a growing number of children who experience sexual abuse and
exploitation. Recent surveys show that more than half of children, both boys and girls, experience sexual
harms online during childhood. This includes being sent sexually explicit content from an
adult or unknown persons, being asked to keep part of their sexually explicit online relationship a secret,
having sexually explicit images of them shared without their consent or being asked to do something
sexually explicit online they were uncomfortable with. In extreme cases, grooming for child sexual
exploitation may lead to child disappearances.

The horrors of abuse are cruel enough. But as the internet has evolved and grown, so has the viral
spread of child sexual abuse materials, and the evidence of that abuse: 85 million images and videos
were reported globally in 2021 – with Europe hosting over 62 % of this material. This material is often
re-shared multiple times online, with children being re-victimised over and over.

The proliferation of abusive materials makes it hard for those children to live normal and healthy lives. In a
a survey conducted in 2017, nearly 70 % of respondents indicated they worry constantly about being
recognised by someone who has seen images of their abuse, 83 % had suicidal ideation, 60 % attempted
suicide.

Read the full Open Letter here.