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Pedophilia on the Internet

NCJ Number
Journal of Forensic Sciences Volume: 47 Issue: 5 Dated: September 2002 Pages: 1090-1092
John M. Deirmenjian M.D.
Date Published
September 2002
3 pages
In analyzing cases of pedophiles' use of the Internet to exploit child victims, this paper discusses two models of pedophilia: a trust-based seductive model and a direct sexual model; it also explores the role that mental health professionals can play in the assessment of pedophilia manifested through the Internet.
Under the trust-based seductive model of pedophilia manifested on the Internet, a pedophile seeks to gain the attention of a targeted child user of the Internet. The pedophile's goal is to obtain a child's trust through an escalation of attention intended to result in the seduction of a child into sexual acts through a face-to-face meeting. The predator can claim to be of the same sex as an intended victim in order to gain the potential victim's trust. Similarly, by pretending to be in the same age group, an unsuspecting child will consider the pedophile a peer. As conversations develop, a pedophile informs the child that he shares similar interests and common experiences. This paper summarizes four cases in which such a model of seduction was used on the Internet. Under the direct sexual model, a pedophile uses Internet communications in taking a relatively short time to introduce the subject of sex with a potential victim. There may be a trade of images of child or adult pornography. Pedophiles use Internet bulletin boards to trade child pornography or to obtain lists of children who have had a prior association with pedophiles. As in the trust-based model, the ultimate goal is usually to arrange a meeting in person. Two cases of this type of use of the Internet are presented. If parents observe disturbing changes in their child's behavior, they may seek the assistance of a child psychologist or psychiatrist. A mental health professional who is sufficiently informed about the Internet exploitation of children may detect victimization from subtle clues. Also, an awareness of the phenomenon of "cyberstalking" and pedophilia on the Internet can facilitate a thorough evaluation of a pedophile in a forensic setting. Further, government intervention can help prevent child sexual exploitation through the Internet. The Federal Trade Commission is currently seeking legislation that requires Internet companies to get parental consent before permitting children under the age of 13 to enter Internet sites that solicit addresses, phone numbers, and personal information. In addition, the FBI is involved in training State and local law enforcement officials in how to establish cyber police units to patrol the Internet. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has established a "cyber-tipline" for the public to use in reporting any suspicious or illicit activity that involves children on the Internet. 12 references