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Scale of Harm Project

Innovative Research Method Sheds Light on Prevalence of Online Sexual Exploitation of Children
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Since 2011, IJM has partnered with the Philippine government, international law enforcement and other non-governmental organizations to combat online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC). In May 2020, IJM published a study on the scale and nature of the crime. Building on that study, IJM launched the Scale of Harm project in March 2021 to develop a research methodology to estimate the prevalence of OSEC in the Philippines and, subsequently, in other countries.


Millions of children and young adults are victims of online sexual exploitation, and the demand for child abuse material is increasing every day. Vulnerable children are livestreamed and violated for profit, robbed of their dignity and rights. Offenders frequently go unpunished because they are often one step ahead of the justice system and technological advances, setting up livestreams without leaving a trace online. The COVID-19 pandemic has also made the situation worse for victims, and young children and teens who are out of school, learning online or who are vulnerable to abuse at home can be easily tricked by traffickers.

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One of the first steps to ending online child sexual exploitation is to understand the extent of the problem. If we are able to pinpoint where and how the exploitation is happening, even in remote and hard-to-reach places, we can rescue victims before they are harmed.

IJM collaborated with an External Advisory Council (EAC) of 24 world-class experts including Scotiabank, researchers and field practitioners from organizations across the technology, financial, government non-government and child protection sectors. The Council shared their technical expertise, fresh insights, intelligence and cutting-edge experience that helped IJM develop a robust mixed-method research approach to implement in the Philippines to estimate the prevalence of OSEC.

This approach will combine national household surveys that include remote and hard-to-reach populations, with data science analysis of a range of secondary datasets. The University of Nottingham’s Rights Lab and EAC members generated a robust evidence base, along with a comprehensive data directory and viability assessments for OSEC indicators relating to each subset.

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Project Progress

As the Scale of Harm project shifts from method development to implementation, IJM expresses its gratitude to Scotiabank, the University of Nottingham’s Rights Lab and the External Advisory Council. These partners shaped, contributed and supported the development of the project. Without their experience, technical advice and wisdom, perpetrators of the online sexual exploitation of children would continue to act without repercussion.


There’s so much you can do to fight the sexual abuse of children and young adults around the world. Every day, we collaborate with individuals and organizations that have expertise in a wide range of areas. Will you help fight injustice? The Scale of Harm project is the blueprint for change, one we hope to implement in additional countries after the Philippines. Join us to rescue the innocent and stop abuse in its tracks.

Organizations such as internet service providers, electronic service providers, financial sector companies and others who are interested in collaborating on the implementation of the Scale of Harm methodology in the Philippines can connect with us at

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