Sexual exploitation of children online has been on the rise across the country

(OTTAWA) Online child sexual exploitation and child sexual abuse increased in Canada from 2014 to 2020, according to a compilation of data released Thursday by Statistics Canada. These numbers include a slight increase in the first year of the pandemic.

Updated yesterday at 10:29pm.

In 2020, the overall rate of child sexual exploitation and child sexual abuse online was 131 per 100,000 children and adolescents, compared to 50 per 100,000 six years earlier.

Police reported a total of 10,739 cases of online child sex offenses and 29,028 cases of online child pornography during this period. An incident will be reported as an online sexual offense if police have identified the child involved, or as online child pornography if they have not.

Rates of online child sexual exploitation and abuse rose in the first year of the health crisis as part of an overall surge in cybercrime, Statistics Canada said. Child pornography crime rates were about a third higher in 2020 than in 2019, while child bait crime rates are up 22%.

Dalhousie University law professor emeritus Wayne MacKay said the “staggering” numbers raise concerns about the changing nature of child sex crimes.

Although better monitoring of cybercrime may have explained part of the increase over the study period, research suggests that online child sexual abuse often goes unreported, Mr MacKay.

“The message from this data is pretty clear: we still have a significant problem with cybercrime and child sexual exploitation,” MacKay said. This is obviously unacceptable, especially when […] They contemplate the devastating consequences of the victims for whom it changes their lives. »

However, Statistics Canada pointed out that while crimes of this type could be increasing, part of the increase could also be due to police officers being better trained to detect these crimes and victims being more willing to report them to refund you.

From 2014 to 2020, luring children accounted for 77% of online child sex offenses where a victim was identified, followed by non-consensual sharing of intimate images at 11% and solicitation of sexual touching at 8%. 68% of child pornography cases involved the production or distribution of child pornography.

The federal agency found that in 2020, the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, cybercrime reported to the police increased by 31% compared to 2019. At the same time, there has been an overall drop in police-reported crime rates, including sexual assault, after several years of increases.

Data shows that 73% of victims of child sexual exploitation and online sexual violence were girls between the ages of 12 and 17 and 13% were girls under the age of 12.

On the other hand, 91% of alleged perpetrators of child sexual exploitation and child sexual abuse online were men and boys: 35% of them were between 25 and 44 years old, 20% were between 18 and 24 years old and 18% were 45 years old and older.

In online child sex crimes, the suspects were more likely to be identified as strangers and casual acquaintances. However, the victim-defendant relationship varied depending on the type of crime and the people involved.

In nearly half of the non-consensual sharing of intimate images, the perpetrator was identified as an intimate partner or friend, according to the report. More than two-thirds of the accused were boys between the ages of 12 and 17 and 22% were girls of the same age.

Statistics Canada reported that such phenomena were expected as the lockdown introduced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic reduced the likelihood of crimes being committed in person. In contrast, the increase in time online during the pandemic may have increased opportunities for committing crime online.

Finally, Statistics Canada found that a small number of child pornography cases were resolved by police.

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