With millions of school-going children forced to stay at home during the ongoing pandemic, sex predators are now seeing it as an opportunity to lure unsuspecting kids into virtual sexual abuse through acts such as sending nudes.
Taking to the various online platforms to educate and entertain themselves, the perpetrators are targeting their potential victims through those sites.
According to a report by The Star, the abusers are increasingly making their way into chat rooms and video game sessions.
The adult perpetrators often pose as minors starting off with innocent conversations which quickly escalate into the adults asking for sexually explicit photos or videos from the children.
If they are not succeeding at acquiring the images, they turn to other approaches such as bribery with gifts or money to entice the victims.
Other than that, they also exploit the children’s insecurities around self-esteem to persuade them.
Once the under-age victim sends the first image or video, they use those to blackmail the children into sending more increasingly graphic content from time to time while threatening to expose them should they not comply.
“They may threaten to send the pictures to the minor’s parents if they do not provide increasingly graphic images,” a Kenyan business reporter, Faith Nyasuguta says.
Online sexual violence against minors will continue to exist for as long as their lives are tied around electronic devices.
A study by End Violence Against Children revealed that the Internet has availed abuse and sexual exploitation of children on demand.
“As they ingest information, build friendships and make connections, the disturbing trends are emerging that threaten children of all ages, including those too young to speak,” the End Violence report says.
Although girls are usually the most vulnerable, boys are also being coerced into this form of abuse.
Psychologist Janet Moraa told The Star that these cases are quickly escalating during the Covid-19 pandemic.
This has to do with some parents being unavailable to sufficiently support the children as they try to balance between their personal mental health and their children’s.
Many parents can acknowledge that they have at some point left their kids unsupervised with electronic devices being used as distractions.
Unfortunately, many children are never aware that they are being abused in such circumstances. Even if they do, they are more scared of how others will perceive them especially their parents.
“Kids do not want to talk to their parents about it,” psychologist John Kimani told The Star adding that it is because of the stigmatization around the topic.
Very few cases on this matter are reported. Many of the children who have been abused in similar ways are affected tremendously.
Whereas some become suicidal, others sink into depression with difficulties trusting anyone or developing intimacies.