The United Kingdom is doing the most to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation, according to a report published Jan. 19 by The Economist Intelligence Unit and the World Childhood Foundation.

The report assesses 40 nations in four areas to determine the level of child safety within their borders and the nation’s overall commitment to keeping minors safe from sexual abuse and exploitation.

Those areas were environment; legal framework; government commitment and capacity; and engagement of industry, civil society and media.

“Child sexual abuse (CSA) includes any activity that involves a child for the sexual gratification of another person (or any sexual activity before a child has reached the age of consent), including rape, assault and harassment, of which the most highly reported form is unwanted sexual touching,” the report explained.

“Child sexual exploitation (CSE) takes place when a child or someone else receives a benefit in return for the sexual activity, and can sometimes be associated with organized crime, such as when children are groomed and trafficked for sexual purposes, or for the creation and sale of CSA materials.”

Sexual abuse and exploitation takes place in all nations and at all socioeconomic levels, yet it is often overlooked, unseen or unrecognized.

The Me Too movement is providing greater visibility to the prevalence of abuse and exploitation in society.

Unfortunately, many victims remain unseen, particularly children who might be uncertain how to give voice to what was done to them or fearful to tell someone because 90 percent of child victims know their assailant.

In addition, data collection efforts in many nations often are lacking in both quantity and quality.

For example, the report noted that only 20 of the 40 nations have data on the frequency of child abuse, and only five on the frequency of child exploitation.

“It is … a largely silent epidemic,” the report said. “Recent studies estimate that more than 1 billion children have experienced physical, sexual or psychological violence in the past 12 months.”

The five nations receiving the highest overall ratings are the United Kingdom, Sweden, Canada, Australia and the United States. The five nations receiving the lowest overall ratings are Pakistan, Egypt, Mozambique, Vietnam and China.

The data and related information are available here. An executive summary is available here.

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