Because Childhood Lasts a Lifetime.

CEO Statement on Child Sexual Exploitation

Statements & Messages

Brands and Businesses should invest in protecting kids -It’s the right thing to do and it is good for business.

Feb. 13, 2023 — CHICAGO—Prevent Child Abuse America applauds the announcement of the new multi- year partnership between the National Children’s Alliance, Balenciaga and Kering Foundation. Together, their new goal is to help children heal from trauma and provide education about child protection, safety and well-being. This is a positive step forward in ensuring that children receive the mental health and other supports needed when adults have failed to secure their safety.

We are confident that this thoughtful engagement will help many children and create a heightened awareness surrounding the important issue of child abuse and its impacts. Our hope at PCA America is that we can stop abuse, neglect and exploitation BEFORE it happens.

This prevention lens was part of our own conversation with Kering and Balenciaga leadership. They reached out to us with concern and seeking solutions after images in a clothing campaign caused a wave of controversy for posing children inappropriately in adult settings. We asked them many of the tough questions that we know many others had: What was the story they intended to tell with that campaign? How many people saw the images in question before they were approved and why didn’t anyone step in? What guardrails or trainings did they have in place for working with or advertising to children?

It is important to better understand the answers to these questions in order for them to create an effective plan to prevent dangerous situations for kids and their families from ever occurring again. Why? Because childhood lasts a lifetime. And while we and our partners are all proponents of ensuring that children receive access to mental health and other supports after a crisis happens, we know that it’s critical for Kering, its brands, affiliates and organizations across all industries – especially those that market with and to children – to understand the impact of adverse childhood experiences, or ACES. ACES are traumatic events that occur before the age of 18 and they can add up over time. Negative, deleterious mental, physical and socioeconomical outcomes can result such as depression, obesity, cardiovascular disease and even higher rates of unemployment in later years.

We must protect children at all costs.

And speaking of costs, national and global brands spend billions of dollars trying to earn our trust and our business. But we should not give it to them if they have not put in the proper protections for children who come in contact with team members, vendors or anyone associated with the brand. If they’ve not created a thorough system of approvals ahead of distributing children’s images on all platforms, then they must go back to the drawing board.

The fashion industry — youth fashion in particular — is positioned to make huge gains as a result of popular social media influence and a post-pandemic increase in childbirths. Between 2021 and 2022, the global kids apparel market rose by almost $15 billion and is expected to increase by more than $120 billion by 2029. We are calling on this industry to truly invest in becoming leaders to reshape the rules and policies around what is expected and acceptable when it comes to the protection of our children. We fully expect them to be advocates for kids and be partners in prevention.

At Prevent Child Abuse America, we believe that there is no amount of profit or revenue that can or should compromise the safety of our children. We strongly condemn the use of children or the use of their images that in any way promotes or suggests promotion of child sexualization or exploitation. It is the responsibility of adults and society at large to protect children and promote positive imagery, messaging and norms across all industries – especially those that promote products and services to kids.

So, what’s next?

Businesses – large, small, local, global and across all industries – should immediately cease the practice of exploiting children in their advertising and create internal education, training, policies and infrastructure to ensure their advertisements are safe for children to create or consume. As we shared during our solutions meeting with Balenciaga and Kering, this means investing in internal checks that guarantee children directly involved with brands – models, voice-overs, influencers – as well as the children to whom the brand advertises, are not harmed.

Create boards or affinity groups whose role is to regularly identify and update internal policies around working with and promoting to children as well as provide transparency about those efforts to the public.

Create awareness around this issue – empower brand ambassadors and partners to speak out against child maltreatment through campaigns. Brands can and should use their platforms, partners and influencers to create a culture shift and new narrative to consumers about what is allowable when speaking to children through ads, live shows, social media or any channel. It’s not about stifling artistic creativity or vision, rather, ensuring that the vision doesn’t intentionally or unintentionally harm kids.

Dedicate resources to support and advocate for policies that protect children. Use your brand’s voice to support research-practice-policy initiatives, like PCA America’s effort with MassKids and the National Conference of State Legislators, which can help power and scale effective policies to the front of the line. Where you invest your dollars speaks to your true values!

Finally – continue the learning. There are numerous webinars, resources and gatherings like the PCA America National Conference this August, that can provide cutting-edge strategies and tools to adapt efforts to protect kids in today’s evolving world and illustrate the power of prevention.

Over the past 50 years of PCA America’s work in this space, we know that building strategies around prevention happens in partnership. Together, we must connect across industries, systems, government, and media to stop abuse before it starts and to ensure a level of accountability for companies who put children at risk.

With Child Abuse Prevention Month coming up in April, we encourage you – as business and community leaders, entrepreneurs, artists and creators – to talk openly and honestly about this issue at your next board meeting, staff town hall and training session. Invest the time and the money to make a difference. Reach out to organizations like ours or our national network of chapters to get support to create safe, stable and nurturing environments for all children.

Go to Top