The number of crimes of sexual violence reported in Estonia has more than doubled in the past decade, "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported Thursday.
Almost half of sex crimes reported last year were committed online and did not involve any actual contact, AK found.
While the sending of unsolicited and unwelcome photos of the male genitalia to an adult does not constitute a crime in Estonia, AK reported, doing so to a minor certainly is and, since pedophiles tend to groom multiple numbers of victims, apprehending one perpetrator can help to prevent that number of victims from rising.
Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) spokesperson Maarja Punak told AK that pedophiles: "Communicate, for instance via social media. We're talking about Facebook, Telegram and all those other apps which young people are contacted via, communications with them begins, and then subsequently they are either asked to send nude pictures or, photos where they are in an erotic or even in a pornographic pose, or, conversely, they are sent materials which a minor should not be seeing."
Last year, 753 sexual crimes were registered, with the largest single category relating to pedophilia and child pornography, AK said.
120 of these cases were sent to court, resulting in 107 people being convicted.
"In most cases perpetrators, both in the case of children and adults, are acquaintances," Punak said.
"Either family members, relatives, or someone with whom this child or adult has established such superficial acquaintances," she went on.
At the same time, "date rape" cases continue to be a problem, making up almost half of overall rape cases, Dr. Marit Kõre of the West Tallinn Central Hospital (LTKH) told AK.
Kõre said "Almost half of the cases involve sedation, where a patient really wasn't really aware [of what was happening to them]."
In the case of these crimes: "We collect evidence and DNA for the police, but this is by no means our only activity," Kõre went on.
"We offer patients initial counseling, and post-intercourse contraception in the form of the SOS pill. We can also start preventative HIV treatment, if the person presents within three days [of the incident]. We can conduct tests for sexually transmitted diseases as well," Kõre.
The youngest patient last year was just one year old; the oldest, 79, Kõre added.
The LTKH crisis center has seen 103 people who were victims of rape so far this year, compared with 84 for the whole of 2021, Kõre said.
While the growing numbers of sex crimes over the past 10 years may reflect an increased awareness and level of reporting, there are still many who are too afraid to report what had happend to them, AK reported.
"The main aspect is to get help," Brit Tammiste, adviser on criminal policy at the Ministry of Justice, told AK.
This would be: "To reduce potential damage to health that can manifest itself later in life ... to be heard, to be understood and, if necessary, to receive psychological help, for instance."
If you or someone you know requires help in relation to sexual abuse, the victim helpline is +372 116 006, while the child-line is +372 116 111.
Both lines have operators who speak English.
The sexual violence crisis center, which offers 24/7 help is here.
More detailed analysis is available from the justice ministry's website (in Estonian) here.
Following several high-profile sex abuse cases, the age of consent in Estonia was raised this year to 16.
Editor: Andrew Whyte, Barbara Oja