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An exploratory study of Internet-initiated sexual offenses and the chat room sex offender: has the Internet enabled a new typology of sex offender?

Authors
  • Briggs, Peter
  • Simon, Walter T
  • Simonsen, Stacy
Type
Published Article
Journal
Sexual abuse : a journal of research and treatment
Publication Date
Mar 01, 2011
Volume
23
Issue
1
Pages
72–91
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1177/1079063210384275
PMID: 20947699
Source
Medline
License
Unknown

Abstract

This exploratory study examined 51 participants convicted of an Internet-initiated sex offense in which they attempted to entice an adolescent into a sexual relationship using an Internet chat room. All participants were convicted of a sex offense and subject to an evaluation as a part of sentencing requirements in Colorado. Clinical and behavioral data were obtained from each subject's offense-specific evaluation and chat room transcripts. The results of the study found that 90% of the participants were apprehended as a result of an Internet sex sting. The authors conclude that Internet chat room sex offenders constitute a separate group characterized by less severe criminogenic factors than other sex offenders (rapists, child molesters). It can be hypothesized that chat room sex offenders avoid relationships and spend a significant amount of time in online chat rooms as a primary social and sexual outlet, and engage in other sexually compulsive behaviors. Within this offender group, it was discovered that two subgroups exist: a contact-driven group motivated to engage in offline sexual behavior with an adolescent and a fantasy-driven group motivated to engage an adolescent in online cybersex without an express intent to meet offline. The chat room sex offender presents a significant clinical issue to treatment providers as a live victim does not exist. Thus, it is unclear if Internet sex stings prevent incidents of child sexual exploitation and may result in convictions of individuals who may never have abused a child. The data suggest a tentative sex offender typology, including subtypes, which need to be replicated in future studies.

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