Research

Institute to uncover scale of child sexual abuse

Human Dignity Foundation, a private funder focused on children’s rights, is establishing an independent global data institute for child safety at the University of Edinburgh.

Child doing stop gesture

The institute will gather the most current, reliable and evidence-based data on child sexual exploitation and abuse.

It will use insights from the data to inform policy and drive sustainable and coordinated action to support vulnerable children across the world.

Protect the vulnerable

The institute will be led by Paul Stanfield, Executive Director elect. His extensive international career as a senior law enforcement officer includes serving at Interpol and the UK National Crime Agency.

Mr Stanfield has long championed the use of data to gain a better understanding of the abuse and exploitation of children. His priority is to use better data to drive activity and secure resources to protect these vulnerable children globally.

Since the foundation of HDF nearly two decades ago, we have seen first-hand that reliable data is needed to protect children from sexual exploitation and abuse. Through this institute and with our colleagues at the University of Edinburgh, we are investing in a potentially transformative piece of sector infrastructure. This will provide an independent, global and enduring analysis of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Our partners across the public and private sectors can then use the data to tackle this gravest of threats to these vulnerable children.

Dr John ClimaxFounder and Chair of Human Dignity Foundation

Best-in-class methods

Child sexual exploitation and abuse is growing at an alarming rate, experts say. The action needed to end it is hampered by a lack of reliable global prevalence data. The data that exists currently is of mixed quality and not comparable or standardised between countries.

The institute will improve and standardise the collection of prevalence data by developing best-in-class methods. Experts from the institute will work closely with colleagues at the Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The data will be user-friendly and accessible to suitably accredited users who need it, such as governments, civil society and other partners. Ethical use of the data will be paramount for the institute. A global index and dashboard will be developed to help policy makers, law enforcement and practitioners.

Survivors' experiences

The perspectives of children and survivors of sexual exploitation and abuse will contribute to data design, analysis, and the interpretation and reporting of findings.

The institute will be supported by the University of Edinburgh’s scientific expertise, including the End Violence Lab, Moray House School of Education, Edinburgh Futures Institute, the Data-Driven Innovation Programme and the Global Health Academy.

We are extremely grateful for the generous support from Human Dignity Foundation to empower our researchers and partners to address such a complex and insufficiently understood issue. The University is committed to using our research to address social and global challenges. It is hard to imagine an opportunity more in line with our mission than this.

Professor Peter MathiesonPrincipal and Vice Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh

The global fight against the abuse of children depends on us strengthening the arsenal of information and data we have available. Edinburgh is at the forefront of UK research in this area and is supported by the UK Government through our £260 million investment in the Data Driven Innovation programme, as part of the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal.

Iain StewartUK Government Minister for Scotland

Related links

Human Dignity Foundation

Read more about the global data institute on Edinburgh Impact

End Violence Lab