New study: Reluctance to report sexual exploitation of children


How many people would be willing to report cases of sexual exploitation while travelling abroad? To answer this question, we asked 1081 participants from Austria, Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands. 

The interesting conclusions of the survey have been published in a new study, that allowed us to better understand the obstacles to report suspicious situations of child sexual exploitation. If you don’t want to read 40 pages, we’ve made it easier for you with this brochure.

Under-reporting of sexual exploitation of children

The research confirmed the under-reporting of sexual exploitation of children in the context of travel and tourism. 831 respondents of the survey witnessed a potential situation of child sexual exploitation. Among them, 183 travelers were convinced that the situation was exploitative but only 4% reported their suspicions to local authorities or at a reporting website/ECPAT. Another 10% reported suspected exploitation to someone at the hotel, restaurant, or to a travel guide or tour operator. The majority discussed the suspicious situation with their travel companions but did not make a report.

Why do travelers don’t report / report little?

We could figure 3 categories of obstacles:

  • Uncertainty about the situation

Not being sure that the situation is exploitative;

Fear of misinterpretation of the situation due to cultural differences;

Fear of misinterpretation of the situation due to mixed couples;

Fear of false accusations;

Tourists don’t expect it and don’t want to be confronted with this during vacation.

  • Uncertainty about the impact of the report 

Fear of getting the child(ren) into trouble ;

Fear of getting involved in criminal activities ;

Fear of interfering in someone’s personal life.

  • Uncertainty about the reporting process  

Lack of trust that the police will act on the report ;

Language barrier ;

No possibility of reporting anonymously ;

Lack of knowledge on further involvement in the case.

What do people know about sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism?

In all the five countries most people were not aware of the signals of sexual exploitation of children. Although many of the respondents of the survey were familiar with the phenomenon (95%), the majority were not aware of the reporting websites (72%).

Participants of the survey mentioned Southeast Asia as the number one continent where they believe sexual exploitation of children takes place (50%). People were not very aware that sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism also happens in Europe or European countries (only 11% mentioned it).

Next steps…

All these very useful observations have enabled us to review our communication strategies as part of the “I say STOP! campaign” in order to better respond to travelers’ doubts and encourage them to report. The structure and information contained on the “I say Stop” website will be adapted to better highlight the action of reporting, the informations to provide and the follow-up of reports.