EU-funded STOP-CSAM project, led by Charité, provides help where it is needed
Efforts to prevent child sexual abuse often center on children, families, professionals, and other people who can help. This puts the focus on potential victims. However, prevention can also start with people who are at greater risk of committing sexual abuse. That is the aim of a project led by Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin: STOP-CSAM – Scalable Technology for Online Prevention of CSA and CSAM. STOP-CSAM is an online prevention program aimed at people who have a sexual interest in children and want to deal responsibly with it. The project has received approximately 1.3 million euros in support from the European Commission for a term of two years.
Distribution of images of child sexual abuse, also known as CSAM (child sexual abuse material) or so-called child pornography, has increased dramatically in recent years, especially on the Internet. The Police Crime Statistics (PCS) Yearbook for Germany recorded a seven percent increase last year alone, with 42,075 registered cases of depictions of child abuse appearing online. The law enforcement agencies tasked with investigating these crimes have limited options for identifying suspects, collecting sufficient evidence of criminal activity, and opening cases. Many of these crimes go undiscovered.
“There is an urgent need to improve and expand prevention efforts aimed at perpetrators to reduce the distribution and use of images of child sexual abuse,” explains Prof. Klaus Beier, who is the head of both the Institute of Sexology and Sexual Medicine at Charité and the new project, STOP-CSAM. Beier was awarded the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany in 2017 for past initiatives to prevent abuse, particularly the Prevention Network Dunkelfeld (Kein Täter werden).
Anonymous chat with a therapist, free of charge
People who feel a sexual attraction to children are at increased risk of committing abuse. One possible way to prevent child abuse is by offering targeted help to people with this inclination. The goal is to enable them to control sexual impulses responsibly and keep them from viewing images of abuse. The project, in which Charité is involved alongside specialized institutions in the Czech Republic, Spain, Portugal, and Germany, will offer individualized options to help build a Europe-wide approach to prevention focusing not on victims, but rather on potential perpetrators. “What’s new about our approach is that the efficacy of therapeutic chat with participants will be studied using a randomized, controlled study design while we also explore ways that AI can be used to support therapists,” Beier explains.
Room to develop different behaviors
People who are at elevated risk can use an appointment-based interactive therapist chat service for prevention purposes. This free, anonymous, and confidential service will be provided by qualified therapists. It will be available in English, German, Czech, Portuguese, and Spanish.
Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Národní ústav duševního zdraví (Czech Republic), Technische Universität Berlin (Germany), Universitat Internacional de Catalunya (Spain), and Universidade de Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro (Portugal) are working together to prevent child sexual abuse and provide prevention strategies to people who use child sexual abuse materials. The project is receiving funding for a two-year period from the European Commission through the Internal Security Fund (ISF). Further information and access to the study
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