The Internet sexual predator is usually a male but current studies indicate that up to 6% are female. They come from all social, economic and racial backgrounds and are usually between the ages of 13-70. The few things they all have in common is that they have perfected their skill in selecting victims who will remain silent, have advanced techniques for avoiding law enforcement detection, and their goal is to have sex with a kid.
There are nearly one million registered sex offenders in the US alone and it has been estimated that 80% of them use social media, online forums, groups or other areas of the Internet. This of course does not count the ones whose offense did not qualify them for registration, the ones who pleaded guilty to another crime, or the ones that have never been caught.
Social networking sites, instant messenger apps, chat apps, gaming apps, blogs, and other areas of the Internet are where 90% of the first contacts are made between a suspected sex offender and a young person. From there the conversation quickly moves to a private instant message, then to the telephone, then to postal mail and then to the face-to-face meeting where the sexual abuse incident occurs. There are specific phases that the suspected child molester will go through in his victim selection process. These steps can take place over just a few hours, a few days, or it can take several months but the eventual goal is to lure a young person to a personal meeting where he can involve the young person in sexual acts for his own gratification.
During this phase, the potential child molester makes contact with the young person. He then verifies all of the information the young person has placed in his or her profile or information he or she shares with the suspect. He does this by asking the kid questions and by piecing together other information he finds on the Internet. When the kid gives out his last name, the name of his parents or guardians, name of school, and the name of the city or town where he lives, the predator then goes to online map sites, school sites and directories to obtain as much information as possible.
Survey of Family Dynamics
This is the phase where the potential child molester learns how well the young person is supervised, who the others are that live in the household and what the habits of the family may be. The predator will usually ask if the child lives with both parents or has any siblings. He will then inquire about whether or not the kid is alone during the day while parents work and even asks who checks the mail.
Introduction to Secrecy
During this phase, the potential child molester begins to try to build a trusting relationship with the young person. He may tell the kid that the relationship needs to be kept a secret because nobody would ever understand it or he may imply that the young person could be in trouble if his parents or other adults ever found out. He will then teach the kid how to permanently erase e-mail, text messages, and photos. He may also instruct the kid about how to avoid parental controls and monitoring apps.
The dialog between the young person and potential child molester usually becomes very sexually explicit and often includes step-by-step masturbation lessons. This can be done during a texting session or it can be on live video with one of the numerous video call apps readily available.
The Grooming Continues
By this time there is a level of trust established between the child molester and the victim. At this point the child may be receiving gifts in the mail that could be anything. One predator sent me a package of panties nearly every week when I worked with local law enforcement or the FBI. Others sent me rings, gift cards, makeup and a whole variety of other things that went into the evidence locker. There are often promises of more expensive gifts if the child will meet the predator in person. I worked on one case where the predator bought a teen a very expensive car.
Introduction to Adult Materials and Child Pornography
It is very common for the potential child molester to expose the young person to erotic adult materials, hardcore adult pornography and very explicit child pornography. These items are sent via instant messenger or e-mail. This is usually done for two reasons; It wears down the child’s inhibitions and it serves to give the child the message that sexual acts between adults and children are normal and acceptable in the mind of the potential child molester. The predator will also use the pornographic or erotic materials to demonstrate specific acts that he intends to perform with the child while he plans the face-to-face meeting. They frequently include everything from oral sex to bondage and many times beastiality comes into the conversation.
The child may be encouraged to take sexually explicit photos of himself or herself and send them to the potential child molester. The kid can also be encouraged to perform sexual acts on his or her live video or previously recorded for the potential child molester.
Face to Face Meeting
If the contact is not discovered by a parent, guardian or law enforcement, it is real likely that there will be plans for an in person meeting. This meeting usually occurs at a motel or at the home of the sex offender. Once the child agrees to meet the perpetrator and actually shows up to do it, the sexual assault occurs. Anything can happen after that. There can be repeated abuse, kidnapping, or the offender may give the kid a ride home.