LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A growing number of girls as young as 11 are being tricked or coerced into sharing selfies of themselves being sexually abused online, a charity that removes such content said on Wednesday.
The UK-based Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) said it responded to more than 37,000 reports of online child sex abuse recorded by the victims themselves in the first 11 months of 2019 - most of whom were girls estimated to be aged 11 to 13.
In a fast-growing form of online sex crime, abusers pressurise girls to record themselves naked or performing sex acts on their computer webcams, which abusers may then re-share, said the IWF.
“Today’s data demonstrates the alarming rate at which self-generated imagery is increasing, especially among young girls – often in domestic settings,” said Susie Hargreaves, chief executive of IWF.
“These are images and videos where girls have been groomed, coerced and tricked into performing sexually over webcam, in what is fast becoming a national crisis.”
‘Selfie’ abuse accounted for nearly a third of the material that IWF acted to remove and trace, the charity said as it launched a campaign to educate young men in Britain to recognise and report child sex abuse.
“I know first-hand what it is like to suffer sexual abuse and the long-term impact it can have,” said one victim, named only as Rhiannon, who was sexually assaulted in her home at the age of 13 after being groomed online by a fake modelling scout.
“My message to anyone who comes across online content that they suspect is of someone under-18 is to do the right thing and report it,” she said in a statement.
It is illegal to take, share or possess explicit images of under-18s in Britain.
The new figures were released a month after a survey of 450 police officers based in the United States and dozens of other countries found that the majority of live-streamed child sex abuse via webcam was generated by the victims themselves.
Half the officers said most victims appeared to be producing the videos voluntarily, while a third said most cases involved victims “induced” to sexually abuse themselves online through coercion or deceit, said the report by IT firm NetClean.
Reporting by Sonia Elks @soniaelks; Editing by Katy Migiro. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit news.trust.org
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