While most people are trying to solve the problems COVID-19 has caused all over the world, criminals are taking advantage of the situation by putting children at increased risk of sexual abuse and exploitation.
During the COVID-19 outbreak, an increase in child sexual abuse has been seen. Child sexual abuse material has become very easy to access, download, produce and share online, and is also a way to find other offenders. In the coming weeks, Europol will support investigations by monitoring the factors that lead to changes in child sexual exploitation.
Many people are forced to stay at home, and as a result, the risk of violence within the family and online sexual exploitation has risen. People have lost their jobs, and due to economical strain, children, especially the more marginalized ones, are becoming more isolated, and hence are more likely to become victims. For those families who have lost their income, live-streaming shows can be seen as an opportunity.
Traveler offenders (tourists, diplomats, etc) use the internet to get in contact with children and eventually they meet them offline. If venues used by traffickers are shut down, they find new ones; child trafficking patterns can adapt. Furthermore, because of the economic situation, child marriages are also likely to increase.
Because of COVID-19, health services have minimal capacity for regular service, and thus child victims have fewer opportunities to access help.