When the COVID pandemic hit the globe last year, experts predicted lockdowns would make it more difficult for victims of various types of abuse and exploitation to get help, meanwhile they also predicted domestic violence and online exploitation would rise as people were cooped up in their homes with abusers and under increased stress and duress. It was an issue frequently reported upon in the news.
Preliminary evidence generally showed these predictions to be borne out in reality.
The Latest News
Now, the latest news reports help us drill down further.
Trafficking Cases in Thailand Hit Decade Low
In January of this year, Reuters reported that, last year, the number of investigations into human trafficking was the lowest in Thailand in a decade. They attribute this to lockdowns and border restrictions hampering trafficking efforts, reducing opportunities for transnational organized crime groups to commit trafficking.
However, there is evidence that online exploitation is still a growing problem.
Online Sexual Abuse Rising Dramatically During Pandemic
The Times in Britain reports that police and advocacy organizations in Thailand say that cases of online sexual abuse of children has increased by up to 40%. Boom Mosby from The HUG Project is quoted as saying that minors, generally between the ages of 10 and 18, are accessible now that they’re on mobile phones. Perpetrators pretend to offer friendship and slowly groom them, until they are encouraged to send indecent photos and videos of themselves.
The Harm of Online Sexual Exploitation
It’s not the image most people have when they think of human trafficking, but it is a growing related problem that often overlaps with trafficking, especially to the extent that it involves the sexual exploitation of minors. And The New York Times recently published an op-ed piece by Nicholas Kristof, in which he demonstrates the incredible harm this kind of exploitation can cause for victims, and how difficult it is to escape the fall-out from it–how there’s no control over who or how many people access these images, how people they know in real life can find and view these images, and how difficult it is to make sure companies take them down. He calls into question whether this onus should fall on victims and why we don’t demand or expect companies, whether the tech platforms that lead to or host this kind of content or the credit card companies that facilitate payment for it, take more responsibility for restricting content that is violent, abusive, and exploitative.