Paul Standfield, CEO

Child sexual exploitation and abuse is a global health pandemic. It occurs in every country and is global in nature.

However, this is a hidden pandemic, one that has been ignored and pushed to the side for far too long because the reality is often too difficult to contemplate.

Having worked globally as a police officer for over 30 years, I have witnessed the true horror and growth of child sexual exploitation. Enabled by technology and a lack of regulation, it has been allowed to pervade every part of our communities, both online and offline. Those working across the sector know this from anecdotal information and experience. Whilst this insight is helpful, it has not been sufficient to drive systematic change across the child protection sector. We need evidence that is indisputable so the problem can no longer be ignored, denied or unhelpfully conflated with issues such as privacy and freedom of speech.

Childlight has been established to take a data-driven, evidence-based approach to understanding the true prevalence and nature of child sexual exploitation and to use that data and evidence to drive transformational and sustainable change to safeguard children globally.

We do not underestimate this task. Data on child sexual exploitation and abuse differs in quality around the world; data foundations are inconsistent, definitions differ and, frankly, transparency is not what it should be.

I am, therefore, indebted to the support provided by the Human Dignity Foundation in establishing Childlight at the University of Edinburgh. This has allowed us to move at pace and benefit from the support of world-leading researchers and experts across the field to undertake this complex challenge.

Our Into the Light Index, the world's first estimate of the scale of this haunting problem, is a preliminary attempt to produce a global picture based on what Childlight researchers have been able to discover in partnership with others leading the fields of data, law enforcement and safeguarding. Whilst many gaps and inconsistencies remain, it provides a baseline by which we can measure the sector's progress in understanding the true scale and nature of child sexual exploitation and abuse. As the data improves and we build our knowledge, we expect to provide more reliable country-by-country estimates and expand into other areas of child sexual exploitation and abuse, both online and offline.

This Index is intended to drive research that enhances our knowledge and understanding of the problem. More importantly, it is intended to have impact by raising awareness and providing frontline workers, policymakers and governments information by which they can make better informed decisions on safeguarding children globally from sexual exploitation and abuse.

Our assessment that at least 300 million children per year are subjected to sexual exploitation and abuse must serve as a wake-up call. So too our evidence that as many as one in nine men in parts of the world have sexually offended online against children - and that many would also go on to commit sexual contact offences with children if they believed it could be kept secret.

And yet paradoxically, this coincides with the roll out of end-to-end encryption on major file-sharing platforms that are increasingly used to secretly share sexual images of children. Just when more than ever we need to shine a light to protect our children, with reports of child sexual exploitation and abuse material being filed once every second, lights are being turned off. If encryption of file sharing is to be the norm, a balance clearly must be struck that meets the desire for privacy for all users, with adequate proactive detection of child sexual abuse material online. Make no mistake: online child sexual exploitation and abuse exists because it is allowed to exist. With sufficient will, it is preventable.

Paul Stanfield CEO, Childlight



You will find the Into the Light Index over the following pages. We have three different measures ("indicators") in this first iteration, to show the scale of online CSEA victimisation, online CSEA perpetration and CSAM around the world.

You can click into each of these three indicators to read more about each indicator and view the data. Each indicator has a short introduction to describe what the indicator is, what it is measuring, and what it is telling us. Depending on the indicator, you can see the data as a map, a chart or a data table, and click into different levels of the data to explore more. If it is relevant and useful to you, we also have a detailed technical report and technical notes to explain the methods, quality checks and assurance behind each indicator. This detail is available on request here:


Sir Bernard Silverman - Chair of the Childlight Technical Sub-Committee, Emeritus Professor at the Universities of Oxford and Bristol and former chief scientific adviser to the UK Home Office

Sir Bernard Silverman, Chair of the Childlight Technical Sub-Committee

I am delighted that Childlight have given me the opportunity to review the index. I would make a number of observations.

The process for selecting the surveys and other source data is properly set out in detail. The data obtained from these sources is tabulated and has been released in a form which, in principle, can allow the analysis to be reproduced or other analyses to be carried out. The algorithms and code for producing the final estimates have also been published.

The statistical accuracy or uncertainty of the various estimates has been assessed by finding confidence intervals, and these are included in the written account. It should be understood that these are conditional on the figures fed in from the original surveys and sources, and on the particular statistical model used to produce the estimates.

The report contains clear narrative caveats where appropriate. One example addressed is the variation of definitions between different jurisdictions, as well as in the surveys themselves. Another is an approach that combines incidents of varying severity in the estimates.

Also to be commended is the way that estimates are not given at an excessively granular level, thereby obviating the need for inappropriate extrapolation or the production of estimates with very wide error bars.

Overall, the work has been carried out to a high professional standard.