The Dutch government is neglecting victims of child sex abuse on social media

The rapporteur for child sexual abuse, Hermann Bolhaar, has admonished the Dutch government for failing to sufficiently tackle the sexual abuse of children, particularly through social media, reports RTL Nieuws.

Sexual abuse of children is a massive issue: half of girls will experience some form of punishable sexual abuse before they turn eighteen. One in five boys will experience the same. There are not currently enough resources being provided by the government to tackle this problem. Several individual initiatives exist, but they’re failing to work together, according to Bolhaar: and additionally, they’re failing to take social media into account.

What constitutes sexual abuse in the Netherlands?

Currently, in the Netherlands, the government’s definition of child sexual abuse is as follows: “sexual abuse consists of all sexual touches or acts that an adult forces on a child”. However, Bolhaar wants to change that definition, or at least change how the government reacts to it. Basically, issues like child-on-child sexual abuse fall outside of this definition, as do some abuses that occur over social media. That means that the government is much less effective in tackling them.

Bolhaar’s statement is embarrassing for the government

Bolhaar’s statement is embarrassing for the government, which has publicly stated that working to counteract and stop domestic abuse and child abuse is a big priority. In 2017-2018, a report released by Victim Monitor revealed that the government’s approach was still too fragmented to be effective. It seems that things have not improved since this report.

Translation: The Sexual Violence Against Children 2017-2018 Victim Monitor will be published today, in which we map how many children fall victim to sexual violence, what help they receive and what the government does to prevent and combat this.

Social media is unrecognised as a problem

Bolhaar’s main problem with the government’s approach is their failure to recognise sexual abuse via social media as just that- sexual abuse. This abuse often takes place over WhatsApp or Instagram, and is often perpetrated by children against other children. This is another area where the government often fails to act: sometimes, it does not recognise sexual abuse of children by children as abuse. “If we want to do something about it, we have to make a list of what is already happening and what is still missing. We must not overlook children,” says Bolhaar.

Figures are difficult to estimate

It is nigh on impossible to provide accurate figures on the number of children being abused: it is often not reported, not recognised, and even talking about it is difficult. Bolhaar’s report therefore assumes that there are far greater numbers of children experiencing abuse than we are aware of. A lack of general communication about the issue makes the problem worse: “[Talking about sexual abuse] is incredibly difficult, also for professionals, and children do not easily talk about it themselves.” He also notes that children often face consequences when they do talk about it.

How can we make coming forward easier for victims of child abuse? Let us know in the comments below. 

Feature image: natureaddict/Pixabay. 

Ailish Lalor
Ailish was born in Sydney, Australia, but grew up by a forest in south-east Ireland, which she has attempted to replace with a living room filled with plants in The Hague. Besides catering to her army of pannenkoekenplantjes, Ailish spends her days convincing her friends that all food is better slightly burnt, plotting ways to hang out with dogs and cats, and of course, writing for DutchReview.


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