Although many terms are used to describe sex offenders, Dr. Park Elliot Dietz best categorizes these offenders as situational and preferential. Ken Lanning of the FBI further writes on the subject that situational offenders do not have a true sexual preference for children, but will engage in sexual acts with children for varied and complex reasons, while preferential offenders prefer children sexually and their sexual fantasies and erotic imagery focus entirely on children.
Offenders mainly seek fuel for their fantasies, which can come in the form of conversation and relationship building with potential victims. Offenders also seek visual and textual depiction’s in the form of images, movies, and stories where children of a preferred age and gender are engaged in sexual behaviors. If these things are not available, the offender usually gravitates toward conversations with persons of similar interest and preferences.
Offenders also dedicate a big portion of their time to seeking an ever-growing pool of victims. The preferential offender may even center his life around his sexual preferences. Just as a smoker wakes up in the morning and reaches for the morning cigarette, the sexual offender wakes up with the following questions:
Where do I find victims?
The Internet has made this question easier to answer. While the victim pool for a youth group leader is 30 to 40 kids, or for a high school coach is perhaps 100 to 150 victims, the victim pool of the online offender is much, much larger.
How do I develop relationships?
The Internet has made this easier as well. In the past offenders gravitated toward social settings and positions of trust to build relationships with victims. And if they lacked the sophistication and social skills needed to achieve these roles, the offender lurked in parks and playgrounds or used physical force to gain access to potential victims. Today, this same offender can present himself as anything he chooses. With the click of a button, he can become someone else.
How do I introduce sex?
While the introduction of sex by a more traditional offender to a victim was tricky and risky, the environment in even “non-sexual” chat rooms enable an offender to begin presenting sexual topics with little fear of repercussion. Adults, or more commonly adults pretending to be other children, often sexualize their potential victims through sexually explicit conversations and pornography. The images first depict adult nudity then progress to normal sex acts, deviant sexual acts, and sexually explicit images involving children.
How do I make sure they don’t tell?
While the traditional sexual offender needed to take extra steps to prevent disclosure by the victim, the online offender risks very little even if disclosure is made. When a child tells a parent about traditional inappropriate sexual conduct by an adult, his/her parents take action. Confiding about inappropriate conduct by an online offender often results in the parent chastising or disciplining the child for being in a “bad” chat room or viewing “dirty pictures”. This can make it easier for an offender to convince a young victim not to tell.
Sexual predators are lurking online in vast numbers. Just as we are careful to watch our children in public areas, we must also keep a close check on their online activity. If you believe your child has been approached online by a sexual offender, contact the Ahoskie Police Department at (252) 332-5011.