OSEC Research and Response 

Research and response to online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC) amidst COVID-19 in the Philippines

Project Information

Project Status: Active
Start Date: June 2021
End Date: May 2023
Countries: Philippines

Gender Equality Peace, Justice & Strong Institutions

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Addressing OSEC with Research & Action

The advancement of digital technology has brought tremendous positive changes to society, but it has also created new risks and crimes that prey upon vulnerable children. With Internet access growing in developing countries and an uptick in children and adolescents using the Internet – a new type of crime, Online Sexual Exploitation of Children (OSEC) is emerging. OSEC is a form of exploitation and child sexual abuse that occurs virtually, on websites and social media platforms. It includes the manufacturing and distribution of materials online that contain child abuse images, the grooming of child victims online with the purpose of sexual exploitation or abuse, as well as live-streaming of child sexual exploitation and abuse. In the Philippines, more than half of the population has easy access to the Internet. It has been labelled the global epicenter of OSEC by UNICEF in 2016.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought disruptions in the lives of people around the world, forcing people to stay at home, increasing online activities. The Philippines is experiencing an economic downturn caused by the lockdowns, with 4.6 million Filipinos unemployed as of July 2020. The pandemic has facilitated a more conducive environment for OSEC activities.

That is why World Hope International and the University of the Southern Philippines Foundation are implementing a project entitled “Research and Response to Online Sexual Exploitation of Children (OSEC) Amidst COVID-19 in the Philippines” through a grant from Sexual Violence Research Initiative (SVRI). 

Project Goal
  1. To improve therapeutic care for survivors of OSEC in the Philippines through specialized training for caregivers, provision of care for OSEC survivors
  2. To produce research to inform the general practices of care and policies on the unique challenges and trauma associated with OSEC, particularly in a time of a global pandemic
Expected Outcomes
  1. Improved understanding of the impact of OSEC and its intersection with COVID in the Philippines through research and reporting
  2. Increased capacity and knowledge among care providers (social workers, psychologists, counselors) in providing therapeutic care for OSEC survivors and therapeutic care to children and families impacted by OSEC

“The interventions for the OSEC survivors really helped us to understand the behavior of the children and on how to deal with it accordingly. Most of our OSEC survivors in the shelter have big changes in their level of trauma. Changes in their behaviors and perspectives are also very evident. It is not easy to handle a case of an OSEC survivor especially if you do not have any knowledge or skills on how to properly handle cases such as this.”

~ Lander Perez

A WHI-trained social worker working in Kanlungan Sa ErMa Ministries (KSEM)

How It Works

Approach and Methodology

The research aims to add to the limited pool of knowledge on OSEC; specifically its impact on the mental health of survivors and the push factors driving OSEC in a time of pandemic. The findings are expected to inform clinical care practices offered to OSEC survivors in the country. Meanwhile, the program will further enhance the competencies of the care providers in the case management of OSEC survivors through specialized learning programs, enabling survivors to be provided with quality and evidence-based therapeutic interventions.

The research will employ a descriptive mixed-method design collecting quantitative data utilizing standardized instruments to assess the survivors and semi-structured interviews for the phenomenological perspective of the families and care-providers, which will provide a holistic overview of the intersection of OSEC and COVID-19. Specifically, the study will investigate the following:

  • Mental health profile of OSEC survivors rescued during the pandemic in the domains of trauma, internalizing, and externalizing symptoms
  • Efficacy of various modalities of therapeutic interventions in the reductions of trauma symptoms and problem behaviors
  • Lived experiences of the care providers in residential facilities handling the OSEC survivors during the lockdown
  • Family dynamics and driving factors among families who engaged in OSEC during the pandemic
Significance

The research will shed light on the impact of OSEC victimization on the mental well-being of survivors and the vulnerabilities of the families that engage in OSEC.

Knowledge of the families’ narratives will advance the understanding of this emerging form of trafficking beyond the figures and provide insight on how to better provide clinical care for survivors and their families especially during a global pandemic that is impacting the economic, psychological, and social well being of already vulnerable people. A deeper analysis of the OSEC phenomenon will facilitate the crafting of policies to stop the proliferation of sexual exploitation of children in the Philippines.

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