Online platforms have given millions of people access to information, resources, services, and friends. Despite the benefits of social media, they still pose a risk to the vulnerable such as children. Terre des Hommes Netherlands and its local partners provide support to children in need as a response to online exploitation in Asia.
In Cambodia, access to the internet and social media is easy due to the low costs of devices and online service fees. This allows children and young people to have their devices and unsolicited access to the internet. For Rachana in Siem Reap, she had her own phone and social media accounts. The 12-year-old made an online friend and over time, she had developed trust in this friend. Over time, this trust was taken advantage of where Rachana was groomed into showing her body online. She was also threatened with this footage being publicly available if she does not continue.
With the referral system that Terre des Hommes Netherlands had helped develop over the past few years, services came to know Rachana’s situation. APLE, a partner organisation specialising in social work, received a call from the chief of Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection. Rachana’s father had reported her situation to the police, seeking legal support.
APLE’s victim support and assistance team conducted initial assessment with the girl and the family in Siem Reap province. After the need assessment, APLE identified that the girl victim needs psychological support and decided to refer the girl to another organisation called A21 for their support and services.
After the referral to support services, Rachana has received psycho-emotional treatment twice per month from A21 and received some welfare support from APLE, during the COVID-19 lockdown in Siem Reap.
On the legal side, APLE’s lawyer has provided emotional counseling and legal information of the criminal proceeding to Rachana and her family. However, there’s no legal representation at court yet due to the police investigation.
“It is a big lesson for me to not add and accept friends without understanding the risk and consequences it may have”, said Rachana. She remains scared about her groomer’s threats and hopes that police investigation will move forward.
Many children are still at risks of online sexual exploitation. Developing a referral system where all types of support is accessible is a priority for Terre des Hommes Netherlands’ Sweetie programme.
Learn more about the programme here: https://www.terredeshommes.nl/en/programs/sweetie