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Study Disputes Belief That Online Sex Offenders Require Special Targeting

Monday, August 19, 2013

There has been a lot of focus recently on sex crimes committed by persons who use the Internet to communicate with victims. However, a new study finds that so-called online predators, are not necessarily more dangerous, and that it is not necessary to focus especially hard on the dangers of online strangers.

The study was conducted by UNH Crimes against Children Research Center, specifically focused on persons who committed sex offenses, in which the victim was targeted primarily using Internet and cell phone medication, text messages and other technology,. The research found that in crimes that result from such communication between an offender and victim, the nature of the crimes were more or less the same as in those cases in which the offender met with the victim in an off-line environment.

In other words, there's no reason to believe that online sex crimes, require more targeting, compared to those crimes in which contact and communication is established off-line.

The researchers published the results of their findings in a study titled Are Online Predators Different from Crimes by Sex Offenders Who Know Youth in Person? The researchers compared 143 cases in which persons knew their victims online, with 139 cases where the person met the victims in an off-line capacity. In the latter case, offenders met with them not through the Internet, or social media, but in their local neighborhoods, families, homes, schools or churches.

There were some factors that are very common in both groups. In all of these cases, the victims used cell phones and other devices to communicate with victims. Most of the crimes in both the groups involved statutory rape, and most of the offenders also solicited sexually explicit images or photographs from the victims. However, some factors that are often stressed on during the prosecution of online sex crimes, like identity deception, were actually rare.

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