Now more than ever children are using the Internet to socialize with peers, play online games, and complete school work. Importantly, not only does the Internet provide youth with a platform to socialize with people they already know, individuals also have the opportunity to interact with new people they meet on-line. This has raised concerns regarding the use of the Internet by sexual predators to contact minors online. In a new study to be published in Journal of Sexual Aggression by SORL members Georgia Winters, Leah Kaylor, and Elizabeth Jeglic wanted to examine the use of the Internet by sexual predators who attempted to contact and sexually groom young children online. Grooming is defined as befriending and establishing an emotional connection with a child in an effort to lower the child’s inhibitions in order to perpetrate sexual abuse. The data utilized in the study were transcripts gathered from a public website, PervertedJustice.com, which served as an interesting inspiration for a novel project (website link below). This website uses trained adults as decoy victims who pose as preteen children in chat rooms. These decoy victims wait for sexual predators to contact them and engage in conversations. This website has resulted in 622 convictions. This study examined factors related to the offender and the “victim” in these online transcripts, as well as the characteristics of the conversations and strategies used by the offender. The results showed some important similarities and differences between online grooming compared to in-person grooming. Furthermore, the results shed light on important aspects of the offender and their approach to conversations with the decoy victims. In all, the study can provide valuable information for parents and the wider community about the importance of monitoring children’s Internet usage. This study provides a greater understanding of Internet child sex crimes and the offenders who sexually groom children in online platforms. If you would like to learn more, the abstract and link are listed below.
Sexual Offenders Contacting Children Online: An Examination of Transcripts of Sexual Grooming
Georgia Winters, Leah Kaylor & Elizabeth L. Jeglic
In Press: Journal of Sexual Aggression
The present study investigated transcripts of adults sexually grooming decoy victims on the Internet. One hundred transcripts were coded for offender characteristics, victim characteristics, and dynamics of the conversation. Results revealed that all of the offenders were male, most of whom believed they were communicating with an adolescent female. The sexual intentions of the offenders were made clear, with the majority introducing sexual content early on into the conversation. The length of the contact ranged from one day to nearly one year, suggesting that the duration of the online grooming process may vary significantly. The majority of offenders also communicated with the decoy victim over the telephone and attempted to arrange an in- person meeting, many within short periods of time. Implications for prevention and future research are discussed.