The LEAGUE (“Limiting online sexual Exploitation and Abuse Gender based on Underaged boys by Educating experts”) project aims at preventing online sexual abuse of boys aged 10-18. The duration of LEAGUE is 24 months, and it will be implemented into two main streams – the first one encompasses the international and national trainings, while the second one refers to the elaboration of an Internet Platform and a Chatbot. The first stream includes two international trainings which will be held in Vienna, Austria. They will target psychologists, carers, social workers, law enforcement, lawyers, prosecutors. Additionally, there will be four national trainings in each partner country (20 in total). The latter will address teachers, parents, school psychologists and will be focused on behavioural science which will contribute to spotting the signs of online child sexual abuse and how to cope with such matters as well as potential prevention measures. The boys aged 10-18, who are the main subject of the project, will actively participate in the creation of the Internet Platform and chatbot under the LEAGUE project. Additionally, the goal of the foreseen activities is to improve the competences of the stakeholders who are working with the victims of such crimes.
- To prevent the online sexual abuse of boys;
- To strengthen the capacity of the professionals who work with this particular vulnerable group of victims;
- To draw more attention to the issue and enhance the safety of boys online;
- To increase the awareness and to improve the knowledge of parents, teachers, and psychologists who communicate with children, especially boys who are victims of online crimes;
- To create and implement an Internet Platform and a Chatbot that will provide information and answer basic questions in the context of online sexual abuse.
The number of online Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) crimes is difficult to measure as online content can easily be hidden or removed. In addition, such crimes are much more difficult to identify in the first place. Due to rapid technological advancements it has never been easier to contact children, send inappropriate images, lie about their identities and conspire for potential crimes which also led to a noticeable increase of reported cases of sexually exploited or abused children. In addition, during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic these numbers have increased even more. In a report, EUROPOL has outlined the pandemic measures such as travel restrictions prevented offenders from physically abusing children, therefore, the nature of the crime was transformed, mainly, into online sexual abuse. The online aspect of this crime means that there is an additional dimension that has to be considered when analysing the effects on the victims. Despite the fact that the online child sexual abuse does not assume physical interactions, it can damage children psychologically and physically for their whole life. Boys have often been neglected in the context of online abuse by research as it was often assumed that the majority of victims are girls. However, boys too are often victims of online sexual abuse and exploitation. As such, more interventions and research are needed for the early detection, prevention and protection of children (particularly underaged boys) and their support.