Executive Summary

Childlight is a global data institute. We believe that no child should live their life in the darkness of Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (CSEA).

We also believe in the power of data to catalyse action and make meaningful change. Data gives us the evidence base for what works to protect children but also to stop abuse from ever happening.

The Into the Light Index is one of Childlight’s contributions to resolving these challenges. This first index is a way to bring together different types of data from around the world and see what picture it paints. We have brought together data from national surveys, research and practice to give our estimates of the prevalence of online CSEA victims and offenders, and the scale and nature of child sexual abuse material (CSAM) online. We intend to track and update this data over time, to show what does and doesn't work to protect children and prevent abuse.

Our hope is that the Into the Light Index is used to catalyse change, whether that is through changing policy or legislation, getting the funding and people in place – or even simply by evidencing the horror of the scale of abuse.

Indeed, our findings are stark:

  • OCSEA is prevalent in every country where it is measured
  • 300 million+ children under the age of 18 have been affected by online child sexual exploitation and abuse in the last 12 months
  • 1 in 8 children globally have been subjected to online solicitation in the last 12 months, such as unwanted sexual talk, which can include non-consensual sexting, unwanted sexual questions and unwanted sexual act requests by adults or other youths
  • 1 in 8 children have experienced non-consensual taking, sharing and/or exposure to sexual images and videos in the last 12 months
  • 11% of men in the United States, 7% of men in the UK and 7.5% of men in Australia report that they have engaged in online behaviours at some point in their lifetime that could be classed as online child sexual abuse offending

The numbers are huge. But behind every number is a child. Children across families, communities and schools, online and in person. Indeed, some of you reading this report are likely to be survivors of abuse yourselves.

Because of this scale, we believe that CSEA should be treated like a global pandemic. We see the change that can be made quickly, and how countries and organisations can come together, when there is a worldwide health emergency such as AIDS or COVID-19. A public health approach to not just responding to but preventing CSEA is required; we owe that to our children.

This is our first Into the Light Index, which we will grow and evolve over time. The first iteration presents our findings at a regional rather than country-by-country level. This reflects current data limitations and is intended to better match how many current CSEA response and prevention organisations are structured and organise their work in terms of child protection system strengthening. We consider this first iteration a baseline, not just in terms of findings but also in understanding what data exists to begin with, and how useful it is.

We have deliberately focused on the prevalence of online CSEA as this is an area with the least complete data picture, and, therefore, where we think the index can provide the most immediate impact to others. We have chosen to share what we know now in the hope that you find it useful, rather than wait until there is a perfect, complete picture.


We know that as well as data being incomplete and unreliable, in many places it simply is not available. Within the detail of our index and analysis, we have data for more than one indicator in 57 of 195 UN-recognised countries – of differing levels of coverage, quality and confidence.

Over the next iterations of our index, we expect to not just enhance the current indicators, but to fill the gaps in our collective knowledge and even test new indicators. The next index iteration will also expand to cover all forms of CSEA, not just online exploitation and abuse.

We have more data and more detail that we will release over the coming months, across languages. However, if there is something specific that you need now, because children can't wait, please just ask us and we will gladly share what we have.


We know that you are as appalled as we are at the scale of these initial findings, which are just a piece of the data puzzle. However, we ask that you take that horror and turn it to action:

  • If you work with governments, frontline practitioners and others who can support data collection, help us by advocating to enhance the index and fill the gaps in data
  • If you have data, knowledge or insight that can improve our collective understanding, please share it
  • If you are in a position to set or influence legislation, safeguarding, prevention, policy or funding, use this data to inform your plans and recommendations
  • If you have questions on the scale or nature of CSEA and need data to shift the dial, get in touch with us
  • If you feel powerless, connect up with other activists and advocates in this space and lobby for change

And finally, if you work with children to keep them safe and secure, let us know how we can help you and your amazing work around the world.

To get in touch, email: childlight@ed.ac.uk

To access more details please download our technical notes for each indicator.

  • Indicator 1 - technical note
  • Indicator 2 - technical note
  • Indicator 3 - technical note
  • To find out more about Childlight: https://www.childlight.org

    Behind every number is a child. If you or someone you know needs support for child sexual exploitation and abuse, or if you are concerned that you might hurt a child, please visit Child Helpline International or Brave Movement or Stop It Now.

    If you see harmful imagery or content online concerning a child, please report it to NCMEC, INHOPE, IWF or C3P.