‘First year Loverboy hotline WATCH Nederland successful’

During the first year of its existence, WATCH Netherlands, hotline and research bureau for sexual exploitation of minors in the Netherlands, including loverboy activities, received 131 reports. Following a first screening for indicators of human trafficking (the criminal offence that covers sexual exploitation), 61 reports prompted intensive investigation by WATCH Netherlands. After refining and stacking up evidence, 53 cases were handed over to the police. Fier, Terre des Hommes and CKM, the organisations behind WATCH Netherlands, call it a successful first year and they expect the public to be even more inclined to file reports in 2018.

Sexual exploitation

New: Focus on underaged male victims

The 61 cases that were further investigated included five cases of underage male victims. Based on signals received, WATCH Netherlands suspects that the number of underage male victims of sexual exploitation in the Netherlands is much higher than currently known. Previous research by Regioplan shows that the police, youth care centres and other institutions also have limited insight into underage male prostitution and underage male victims of sexual exploitation. ‘This is worrying’, says Anke van Dijke of Fier and CKM, ‘especially because of the inaccessibility of the community in which sexual exploitation of underage males takes place. In addition, the minors concerned are confronted with various taboos, which makes them hesitant to come forward. In many cases, people close to them also don’t seem to notice that the boys are sexually exploited. More attention should therefore be given to proactive investigation into this group. The need for such investigation has become all the more pressing now that underage male prostitution has for a large part shifted from the public to the online domain.'

Report sexual exploitation of underaged boys

For this reason, WATCH Netherlands places the investigation into sexual exploitation of underage boys high on the agenda in 2018. ‘It concerns adolescent boys who, invisible to the outside world, are being blackmailed (often they have not yet come out) and sexually exploited. During the exploitation they are frequently raped, broken down psychologically and numbed’, says Gideon van Aartsen of Terre des Hommes. ‘WATCH Netherlands calls on parents, hotel owners, taxi drivers, teachers, friends and relatives, in short anyone who has the gut feeling that a minor is victim of sexual exploitation, to report this to WATCH Netherlands. Last year we only talked about loverboy practices. Now we also urgently ask to report suspicious situations that involve boys.

Tracking down child traffickers

Besides investigating reports received, WATCH Netherlands also works proactively. By using bait profiles, bait advertisements and intensive investigation into the online offer, WATCH Netherlands maps out human traffickers, such as male prostitute pimps and their customers. ‘We  deliberately try to destroy these people’s trade by warning and discouraging customers and by chasing them away from providers. We share our information with the police and the justice department with a view to trace down and prosecute human traffickers and customers of minors,’ says Van Aartsen.

Cooperating with aid and health agencies

WATCH Netherlands also collaborates with local, regional and national aid agencies and health authorities to ensure optimal protection of victims. This collaboration is important as WATCH Netherlands does not take on the coordination of care and support themselves, but passes it on to the appropriate specialised bodies.

Finally, it is important for more specialist care to become available, specifically aimed at boys who are victims of sexual violence and sexual exploitation. Anke van Dijke: ‘Fier is working hard to develop this aid offer.’

WATCH Nederland

On 9 January 2017, Terre des Hommes, the Centre Against Child Trafficking and Trafficking (CKM) and Fier (expertise and treatment centre in the field of violence in dependency relationships) started a 24/7 hotline for reporting suspicions of loverboys/trafficking. Reports can be submitted via www.watchnederland.nl or by calling +31 (0)88 208 00 44.T

Now let's save the others...

Children who are vulnerable to exploitation, need protection and assistance. Together with our partners and sponsors we address child exploitation. During the first year, WATCH Netherlands was able to hand over 53 child exploitation cases to the police. Now for the rest of them. Will you help us?

Learn more about the fight against sexual exploitation of children in The Netherlands >> 

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