RAINN and Oak Foundation Join Forces to Combat Child Sexual Abuse

Oak Foundation has awarded RAINN a three-year grant that will dramatically scale up RAINN’s advocacy and education work to combat child sexual abuse (CSA) and the proliferation of child sexual abuse material (CSAM) online.

The family-led Oak Foundation commits its resources to address issues of global, social, and environmental concern, particularly those that have a major impact on the lives of the disadvantaged. Through its grant-making, the foundation supports others to make the world a “safer, fairer, and more sustainable place to live.”

“Oak is honored to support RAINN, the largest anti-sexual violence organization in the U.S., in their efforts to advocate for stronger tech accountability and practical approaches to the challenges of stopping online child sexual abuse. We care about prevention of child sexual abuse and the online proliferation of images capturing criminal treatment of children has gone on too long without sufficient accountability.” said Vicky Rateau, programme officer for the Oak Foundation, “Their sophistication in driving practical, survivor-centric policy change is proven. Oak’s support is the equivalent of adding wind to the sails of a determined partner.”

This grant will fund RAINN’s work to expand the detection, blocking, and removal of child sexual abuse material online. The rise of the internet has empowered millions of perpetrators who create and consume child sexual abuse material and otherwise use the online world as a platform for assaulting, exploiting and traumatizing child victims. Online communities of perpetrators are proliferating, forming a dense, highly active “marketplace” driven by the demand of child sexual abusers. Actively traded cases are also associated with “more egregious content in terms of sexual activity, and more likely to involve familial offenders, particularly nuclear family members, according to a 2018 report.” Recent studies also suggest that between 55 and 80 percent child sexual abuse material consumers also commit off-camera contact sexual offenses on other children, indicating that this online activity is linked to added risk to children in their communities.

While many tech companies take steps to identify and remove CSAM, such efforts are inconsistent across the industry. In addition, tech companies are increasingly deploying encryption and VPN tools with no effort to include safety-by-design principles that would safeguard children and detect and block the distribution of CSAM. Some also deploy algorithms that incentivize sharing of content based on popularity, which drives the global demand and distribution of images of CSAM. When CSAM is reported or found, some companies fail to comply with lawful investigative requests made by police. And the problem extends offline: Even when reported to law enforcement, thousands of children depicted in CSAM remain unidentified due to a lack of prioritization of child victim identification strategies, resources, and manpower.

“Fully solving this problem is going to require both the partnership of tech companies and legislative action,” said RAINN’s vice president of public policy, Camille Cooper. “The flourishing global demand for child sexual abuse material fuels the increased demand for new images with new victims. The U.S. must be consistent with other nations including Australia, the U.K., and Canada, to provide regulatory reform that puts the interest of children before profits. These are real children who are being victimized in every neighborhood across the United States. The prevention of these crimes and the identification of these victims should be our nation's highest priority.”

RAINN will lead policy-driven, coalition-based efforts to pass legislation to prioritize the identification of dual offenders — those who both abuse children and produce CSAM — and the rescue of children who languish in abusive situations, and build capacity for law enforcement to act on the expected increase of reports from technology companies.

“Law enforcement is so completely overwhelmed with suspect leads that they must make heartbreaking decisions every day about which case to choose and which child to rescue,” Cooper noted. “Over the past decade, huge advancements have been made in the way law enforcement can manage their caseload and apply smart proactive policing principles to target the worst offenders and children needing identification and intervention from continued abuse. But they need additional resources to focus resources on identifying the thousands of children depicted in CSAM and on the offenders with the highest likelihood of committing contact offenses.”

“The Oak Foundation partnership is vital to championing change in order to protect vulnerable populations from sexual abuse,” said ToQuyen Doan, RAINN’s associate director of grants and donor engagement. “We depend on strong partnerships that play a vital role in our efforts to combat CSA and CSAM. We are incredibly grateful and excited for our partnership with Oak Foundation and look forward to the great work we’ll accomplish together in the coming years.”

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