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Online “Predators” and Their Victims: Myths, Realities, and Implications for Prevention and Treatment

University of New Hampshire

The media-created perception that sex offenders use trickery and physical force to molest children they meet online is largely a misconception, report researchers at the University of New Hampshire. Rather, the children often know the age and sexual interest of the adult, and voluntarily engage in sex, this study finds.

The researchers found that offenders are rarely true pedophiles — those sexually attracted to prepubescent children — or violent or sadistic offenders. Internet-initiated sex offenses also comprise only a small percentage of statutory rape offenses. However, the Internet’s accessibility and largely anonymous circulation of child pornography has fueled an increasing interest in sex with minors, the report says. Grants to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and grants from the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention funded surveys on which the study was based. Article preparation was funded by the Verizon Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Verizon Communications. Free, 18 pages. (800) 374-2721, http://www.apa.org/journals/releases/amp632111.pdf.

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