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Say no to sexual abuse! 23 September 2021

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 today, aims to send a message to the public that there are no borders in their joint fight to prevent, detect and investigate online sexual abuse of children and adolescents, just as there are no borders for perpetrators of these crimes. 

There are even fewer barriers to online sexual abuse in the Western Balkans on account of similar culture and language, hence investigators of online child sexual abuse must 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.

As part of the Say No! campaign, representatives of the Western Balkan police forces, Europol and the Slovenian police have prepared a promotional video on online child abuse in the languages of the participating Western Balkan countries. The video was presented today at the 11th conference on online child abuse and is also being shown for the first time to the public by the Western Balkan police forces mentioned above. The video is part of Europol's #SayNo! campaign.

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Child sexual abuse is a particularly heinous crime as it directed at the youngest members of society. It has long-lasting, irreversible and lifelong consequences for the victims. Children are often exposed to sexual abuse within the family and are abused by people who they depend on emotionally, financially and developmentally, at home, which is supposed to be a safe haven and a trusting environment for the child.

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This year's Say No! campaign also focuses on international cooperation in the joint fight against the sexual exploitation of children, as shown in a new video produced by all participating countries and Europol. Video: Say no!

Children mostly go online to have fun, socialise, relax and look for answers to questions that they are too shy or embarrassed to ask elsewhere. There they can be preyed upon by individuals who try to befriend them and win them over. Offenders abuse children by talking them into sending intimate images of themselves. This is often followed by blackmail. Physical sexual abuse most often occurs after a child has sent a photograph and has been subjected to a cycle of blackmail and additional demands.

Online sexual abuse is on the increase in Slovenia. In 2018, the police investigated 141 offences of presentation, manufacture, possession and distribution of pornographic material, in 2019 there were 134 such offences and in 2020 the number of offences grew to 150.

When an offender is trying to build a relationship with a child, it is easier when they share similar culture and language. Child sexual abuse is no longer confined to one country, but has taken on regional, international and even global dimensions. It is a worrying fact that a global market for child sexual abuse images has emerged, with the European Union being the largest host of child sexual abuse images on a global scale.

The fight against child sexual abuse is a priority for the European Union. The Slovenian Police, in cooperation with Europol and several Western Balkan police forces, aim to take advantage of EMPACT (European Multidisciplinary 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 infringements of fundamental human rights and that police forces share a common desire and commitment to do everything in their power to protect children and adolescents from these acts and to take action against perpetrators in accordance with their powers.

Combating the sexual exploitation of children is one of the priorities of the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

Our children are our present and our future. Their safety is the responsibility of all members of society, especially those of us whose job and mission is to protect and keep safe the youngest members of society, and we will strive to ensure a safe and carefree future for our children, on and beyond the internet.