The number of reports of photos of children being abused have doubled since the beginning of the lockdown in mid-March, according to the child protection charity Child Focus.
In addition, the number of reports of “sextortion” – the use of compromising images or videos to blackmail children – have even tripled over the same period, spokesperson Stephan Smets said.
At the same time, De Morgen reports, the callers to Stop It Now!, the helpline for people having paedophile desires, have changed in character. Normally, one in five contacts to the helpline come from family or friends of a person suspected of having such feelings. Since the lockdown, the proportion has risen to 65% of all calls.
Meanwhile, only 30% of calls come from people calling about their own feelings, when in normal times the number would be twice that.
The remaining 5% are from professionals involved in the field.
“In the last few weeks we have seen an increase and a noticeable change among callers,” said Minne De Boeck, a criminologist with the forensic centre at Antwerp university hospital and head of the Stop it Now! project.
The section of the federal police that deals with child abuse has also seen an increase in cases. According to a spokesperson, the phenomenon is international, not only appearing in Belgium.
“We know from research that isolation is a risk factor in child abuse,” a spokesperson told the paper.