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Launching Sparks in the Dark: A New Ally in the Fight Against Child Sexual Abuse

Every year, millions of children worldwide face the horrors of child sexual abuse and exploitation (CSAE), a pervasive issue that demands urgent action. In response to this critical issue, ‘Sparks in the Dark’ was launched to leverage collective knowledge to help combat CSAE effectively. By fostering collaboration and sharing vital resources, ‘Sparks in the Dark’ seeks to create a unified front to protect our most vulnerable and drive positive change across the globe.

The Complexity of the Problem

There is a serious reason why experts describe the CSAE issue as a ‘pandemic’. Recent statistics shed light on the widespread nature of this crisis. For instance, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reported receiving over 32 million global alerts related to child sexual abuse materials in just one year. Furthermore, global estimates by the World Health Organization suggest that 1 in 5 women and 1 in 13 men reported having been sexually abused as children. These numbers only scratch the surface, as many cases go unreported or unnoticed.

Police forces, private companies and many research organisations work hard to overcome the numerous issues that are also constantly evolving and mutating. For example, take the recent trend of generative AI and synthetic media that pose new threat vectors for law enforcement. Nevertheless, it is encouraging and reassuring to see new technical innovations, networks and research publications being released to challenge the problems. However, this also adds a new dimension and complexity for those working for positive change. Namely, how do we avoid duplication, maximise impact and ensure the relevant people are well-informed and updated with progress?

Even for those trying to maintain a finger on the pulse in this area, it’s hard to keep abreast of what’s happening; who is doing what, and how the results will positively influence the situation. Also, the domain often remains divided. Experts from one area don’t necessarily understand those working from a different perspective. For instance, practitioners working with detection tools and innovations to help identify victims of abuse are often disconnected from the prevention landscape and the work to understand the links to offending and the factors influencing a person to commit an offence.

This evolving environment makes it imperative to develop responsive and adaptive solutions that can keep pace with technological changes, but the dispersion of information is slowing the process.

How ‘Sparks in the Dark’ Helps?

The launch of ‘Sparks in the Dark’ helps to address this urgent need by creating a platform for collaboration and innovation, aiming to spearhead effective strategies and enhance collective efforts against CSAE. It helps illuminate EU-funded projects, and signposts other significant actions in Europe and the global domain.

[The content on the site is published in English, but you can use a plug-in that automatically translates it into a couple of different languages. It is located at the bottom of the screen on the left. However, automatic translation causes the risk of stylistic and even factual errors. Please keep this in mind.]

The website was initiated with funding from the EU-funded ARICA project, which the consortium agreed to use part of the project’s budget to support the entire domain. The ideas streaming from that initial plan were developed by the Polish Platform for Homeland Security (PPHS), which later linked with many actions in the space to bring together a community proactively working to counter issues connected with CSAE. All efforts weave into the EU’s Strategy for a more effective fight against child sexual abuse, and follow the structure of addressing prevention, investigation & detection and victim & survivor support as complementary facets of a united approach.

Holistic Approach

The primary aim of this initiative is dual-faceted. Firstly, it seeks to unify various complementary efforts within an environment enriched with knowledge and outcomes derived from projects dedicated to combating CSAE. Secondly, it strives to create a community environment where stakeholders can share research findings, innovative ideas, and strategic plans, thereby enhancing the value of each project and minimising repetition.

The website is tailored for a diverse group, including policymakers, government officials, researchers, practitioners, industry leaders, and the general public. It offers high-level information that is straightforward and easy to navigate. It details the primary actions, outcomes, and deliverables of each initiative, providing a vital channel for enhanced communication and dissemination. Moreover, with the help of the community, ‘Sparks in the Dark’ aspires to establish a consistent consensus on the recommendations necessary for ongoing improvements in this field. It encourages continuous dialogue among partners to refine and enhance the strategies based on diverse research and reports.

Achieving a unified professional stance is crucial for advancing the whole-system approach that integrates the three core pillars: prevention, detection & investigation, and support for victims and survivors. This collective effort is essential for substantial progress in the domain.

Join and Support Sparks in the Dark

We encourage you to actively engage with ‘Sparks in the Dark’. By sharing this platform on social media, you help us reach a wider audience and amplify the impact (visit the LinkedIn profile too). For those deeply committed to the fight against CSAE, consider joining the Sparks community as an editor, where you can publish your initiatives, articles, news, and reports.

Sparks also relies on your financial support to further develop and maintain its services. For more details on how to contribute, please visit the donation page. Your involvement and support are crucial as we continue the mission to protect children globally.


Communication and Community Manager

Lukas Kielban

Senior Communication Specialist