What are the signs of children who have been sexually abused? UNICEF said there are several signs that family and friends need to look out for, and one such sign is that children who had experienced sexual abuse tend to socially isolate themselves.
The children will also begin losing interest in school and friends. They will develop low self-esteem, and their trauma will cause them to have nightmares. Sometimes, these children may experience unexplained bleeding of the genital areas and exhibit bruises.
When these are left unaddressed, UNICEF warned that these symptoms could lead to mental health problems and cause children to commit suicide or make them dependent on alcohol and illegal drugs.
UNICEF Philippines Representative Oyunsaikhan Dendevnorov said that the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has sadly exacerbated the incidence of online sexual abuse and exploitation in the Philippines.
Because of the quarantine restrictions, children are more at risk for sexual exploitation. The Philippine National Police (PNP) even said that the Philippines is considered the number one source of child pornography and a source of income for many who are living on the margins of society.
“Children are increasingly becoming victims of circumstances that are harmful to their development and well-being. This must stop,” stressed Dendevnorov. “UNICEF encourages all of us to work together to create a safe virtual space for our children.”
Dendevnorov encouraged parents and family members to take a more active interest in their kids’ day-to-day lives so that incidences of sexual exploitation and abuse will be put to a stop. He said that adults should also get to know their kids’ friends and carefully select babysitters and caregivers.
At the same time, parents should become well-versed in the use of gadgets and apps so that they can ensure a safer environment for the children while using digital plarforms.
Based on the two majors studies conducted by UNICEF on child online protection – the Philippine Kids Online Survey and the National Study on Online Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children – 90 percent of Filipino children could access the internet whenever they want or need to.
From that percentage, 59 percent can connect to the internet without any supervision. It also revealed that two in 10 children are vulnerable to become victims of child online sexual exploitation and abuse.
Given these facts, UNICEF has led to the implementation of SaferKidsPH, a six-year program that aims to reduce the prevalence of online sexual abuse and exploitation in the Philippines by strengthening government child protection systems.
In partnership with Save the Children, the Asia Foundation, and the Australian Government, SaferKidsPh will work with children and their families, the Philippine government, civil society, and the private sector to ensure that children are safe and protected online.
“The fight against online sexual abuse and exploitation is everybody’s fight. We ask all concerned agencies, our children and their parents, and our local communities to join us in combating this grave and egregious violation of our children’s rights. Every child has the right to survive and thrive in a safe and secure environment, whether online or offline,” concluded Dendevnorov.