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The Slovenian Police are launching an international campaign entitled Say No! in cooperation with Europol and the police forces of Croatia, North Macedonia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro. The campaign, which starts next week, aims to draw attention to the issue of online sexual abuse of children and adolescents in the region and reinforce the fact that, just as there are no borders for perpetrators of online sexual abuse of children and adolescents, there should be no borders in the joint fight to prevent, detect and investigate these crimes.

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Child sexual abuse is a particularly serious crime with far-reaching and severe consequences for victims. It is even easier to commit these crimes online, since the internet gives perpetrators easy, anonymous and inexpensive access to chat rooms, forums, websites and social networks, which are the environments where children and young people spend a lot of time.

There are even fewer barriers to online sexual abuse in this region, as perpetrators and victims share similar culture and language. On account of these ties, they can strike up a conversation easily and arranging physical contact between the child and the perpetrator is not difficult either.

During lockdown, when perpetrators, like everybody else, were forced to stay at home, they spent more time on computers and other smart devices, and this was reflected in the increased demand for child sexual abuse material. According to Europol, in some member states, demand increased by up to 25 per cent.

When a child is sexually abused online, the damage is even greater, as victims have to live with the knowledge that photographs and videos showing the worst moments of their lives are circulating online and can be seen by everyone, including their friends, relatives, teachers, and future employers. According to Internet Watch Foundation, a vast majority of child sexual abuse material is hosted in EU.

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In the campaign to be launched on Thursday, 23 September 2021, representatives of Europol and a number of Western Balkan police forces, together with the Slovenian police, will send a message to the public that there are no borders in their joint fight to prevent, detect and investigate these crimes, just as there are no borders for perpetrators of online sexual abuse of children and adolescents. Child sexual abuse investigators work together at the formal and informal levels, exchanging good practices, sharing experiences, organising joint training and providing cross-border assistance in investigating cases of sexual abuse where the child and the perpetrator come from different countries.

Preventing and investigating child sexual abuse and strengthening police cooperation to combat these crimes across the Western Balkan feature as priorities of the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

As part of the Say No! campaign, representatives of the Western Balkan police forces, Europol and the Slovenian police have prepared a promotional video to be presented at the 11th conference on online child abuse on Thursday, 23 September 2021. There will be a separate event announcement for the conference.

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The fight against child sexual abuse is a priority for the European Union. The Slovenian police, in cooperation with Europol and the police forces of several Western Balkan countries, aim to take advantage of EMPACT (European Multidisciplinatory Platform against Criminal Threats, which is Europol's platform for concrete operational solutions to current threats) to reinforce awareness that acts of sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children and content depicting child sexual abuse are serious violations of fundamental human rights.

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