How to talk about child sexual abuse in the digital world

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WeProtect Global Alliance – Report

August 19, 2021

A FrameWorks UK brief prepared for WeProtect Global Alliance

How we talk about Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse Online matters. Our communications can make the difference between salience and dismissal, between hope and fatalism, between collective action and stepping back.

This strategic brief outlines challenges for communicating about child sexual exploitation and abuse online. And offers preliminary recommendations for communicators.

The briefing provides ideas and sentiments that can be articulated and brought to life in different ways. It means Alliance members can align and amplify their collective messaging – whilst retaining individual identity, tone, and focus.

Key challenges

  • Child sexual abuse is seen as incomprehensible and inevitable
  • Child sexual abuse online is often seen as only a criminal issue
  • Children’s safety online is likely seen as issue for individual caregivers
  • Technical understanding of the digital world is limited
  • Descriptions of harm often stigmatise and shame survivors

Communicators should do more of

  • Lead with shared values – and use them to strengthen calls to action: social responsibility and ingenuity
  • Balance urgency with efficacy
  • Collectivise and expand calls for prevention
  • Explain the solutions to child sexual exploitation and abuse online
  • Talk about the potential for – and causes of – harm

Communicators should do less of

  • Avoid acronyms and minimise industry jargon
  • Avoid direct mythbusting
  • Don’t rely on appeals to child rights alone
  • Avoid crisis frames that tells us child sexual abuse is out of control
  • Avoid facts and stats that focus solely on prevalence