International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children Australia Ltd

ICMEC Australia News

What are the costs of child sexual exploitation?

November 29, 2023

The most important consideration for the detection and prevention of child sexual exploitation (CSE) is the impact of this crime on the victim-survivors. Not just at the time or times it occurs, but well into the future.

The Australian Child Maltreatment Study (ACMS), released in April 2023, demonstrated the lasting emotional and psychological impacts child sexual abuse can have well into adulthood.
But this is only part of the story.

When a child experiences sexual exploitation, whether physically or online, the effects are wide-ranging and extend into many areas of their lives. Beyond the grievous psycho-social implications that stay with victim-survivors for a lifetime, there are also economic impacts for the child, their families, any future partners and children, and wider society.

By understanding the economic and broader implications of this crime, we can begin to see the true urgency of action needed.

In September we opened applications for Australian academics to submit their interest in conducting new research into the economic consequences and impacts of child sexual exploitation, particularly facilitated online.

With one of the most recent Australian studies into the economic costs of CSE being released in 2016/17, gaining current insight into this issue is well overdue and essential to informing our response as a sector.

We are delighted to announce that Dr Jonah Rimer, Senior Lecturer in Criminology and Convenor of Postgraduate Cyber Criminology at The University of Queensland, will lead the research for Phase One of a joint project with ICMEC Australia.

Dr Rimer is one of Australia’s most renowned academics in the child protection space. His skills and experience in researching the impacts of child sexual exploitation will result in an important piece of work that we hope will create greater awareness of the crime and facilitate broader engagement in a collaborative response.

Phase one of this multi-phase project will inform the future phases of the research.

This initial report will see the research team providing an outline of the different cost categories, components and sectors relevant to the financial impacts of CSE, particularly facilitated online.

“I envisage that this report will be helpful to a number of areas within the child protection sector.”

-Dannielle Kelly, Head of Capacity and Prevention at ICMEC Australia.

“We aim to use this research for our own prevention purposes, building frameworks to further prevent exploitation, and determining key areas of focus for both awareness and deterrence measures.”

“And we will also look to share the findings with our key partners and stakeholders within the sector. Their work in advocating for the broad ranging and deep impacts of this crime will be boosted by the data and insights provided.”

Whilst the findings from this research will have benefits for many of those holding perceived traditional roles within the child protection space, the ripples of positive impact will also spread to other organisations and professionals who play a key part in detecting, reporting and preventing CSE facilitated online.

“I believe law enforcement, government, NGOs and our partners in academia will be able to use the findings and methods to better articulate future funding needs, where funding will be best placed, and to lobby government and donors for more spending in this area,” adds Dannielle.

“And our banking partners have already shown an interest in the potential for the research to give a quantitative number for the cost of the crime, allowing them to pitch their case for increased staffing and awareness in the financial crime portfolios.”

Partnering with such a respected institution as The University of Queensland on this project ensures the highest academic resources and access to some of the greatest minds in the space, especially Dr Rimer.

“For an important issue like this one, we need to get out of our silos, and partnerships between academia and leading agencies such as ICMEC Australia are crucial. I feel privileged to be working with ICMEC Australia on this research.”

-Dr Jonah Rimer, Senior Lecturer in Criminology and Convenor of Postgraduate Cyber Criminology at The University of Queensland

“Analysing the effects and costs of CSE requires holistic, multifaceted thinking and a comprehensive approach. I hope to bring this to the project so that we can come to better understand the costs and impacts of CSE, including for victim-survivors, families, the justice system, relevant professional and private sectors, and broader society,” says Dr Rimer.

It’s an honour for ICMEC Australia to have the support and partnership of both Dr Rimer and The University of Queensland on Phase One of this much-needed research, kicking off an ongoing vital project that will help shape the broader community response to protecting children from harm.

The research is set to commence in January 2024 and will conclude approximately six months later.
We are looking forward to sharing the research findings with our stakeholders and the wider community later in 2024, ahead of planning for the future phases of the project.

By placing the victim-survivor at the centre of our work and finding as many ways as possible to understand the impacts of this serious crime, we can move closer to being able to prevent it in the first place.

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