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Sexual molestation is referred as the habit that includes all activities that are directed towards another person usually of the opposite sex to influence, cajole, or force another person to engage in any form of sexual activity (Young, 1998). Sexual molestation is as varied as the type of people who engage in the vice. In rare occurrences it can occur among members of the same sex when the sexual molester is a gay. Sexual molestation includes indecent exposure of one nudity, written or spoken words with sexual undertones, touching of someone else body parts that are considered sexually stimulating, use of and showing pornographic pictures to another person and so on (Young, 2009).
Sexual molestation certainly is not limited to these activities. Any other action including signs that are directed towards another party that communicates, implies or suggest in any form desire for the person to involve another one is considered sexual molestation (Young, 2009). For sexual molestation to be considered to have occurred two things must have happened. The explicit or implicit desire of sexual nature directed towards another person. And two the other person must be unwilling party (Young, 2009). But this does not necessarily have to happen as is the case in child molestation. This is because children are not allowed by law to consent to sex, and therefore any form of sex is considered to have occurred through undue influence from the adult party.
Nature and Extent of Sexual Molestation
Sexual molestation online presents its challenges in many forms to the molester. Most importantly it has its limitations in terms of distance from the victim, but only for some time because usually the molester meets the victim (Carnes, 1992). Nevertheless the limitation on the side of sexual molester is one that effectively limits the length that can get and the forms of sexual molestation they can be involved in. However on the flipside online present the highest number of opportunities for an online molester to engage in sexual harassment and escapades. In this situation the list of possible sexual harassment scenarios is endless to say the least, perhaps the reason it is one of the most used platform for sexual molesters worldwide since the advent of internet.
But it is not only the nature of harassment that is endless the number of sexual molesters on line at any given time is higher than the cyberspace police can keep track of, and they keep rising every day (Carnes, 1992). The FBI in one day commences investigations of not less than six "travelers" (Kimberley, 2005). A term that they use to describe online sexual molestation towards children, more generally referred as pedophile. In 2009, MySpace one of the largest online social interaction sites announced that so far they have managed to delete user accounts of 90,000 sexual molesters from it site all of whom were registered at the FBI's National Sex Offender Registry (Carnes, 1992).
They managed to identify them through matching user account details with the personal details of the names at the registry. With lack of another form of profiling the rest sexual molesters online not registered.
We can safely assume that the majorities are those not identified and who are still prowling the cyberspace in search of their next victims.
Facebook which is currently the largest social interaction site has no reliable way of identifying sexual molester registered on its site. It has more than 150 million registered users (Carnes, 1992). It is the same case with the rest of the numerous online interactions sites that even by themselves are hard to account. Today due to the advances made in information technology which has dramatically reduced the cyberspace cost, online sexual molestation is very real and is ten times to happen on site than in any other environment (Young, 2001). Save for discotheques and night clubs.
In the same breath it has facilitated and fueled online sexual molestation phenomenon than would occur normally. Indeed the allure and discretion provided by the online environment is one that makes the pedophiles and general sexual molesters want to get over their head with happiness. In any other place the intricacies involved in carrying out sexual molestation is one that requires patience restrain and usually occurs only in subtle form.
Having seen the extent in which sexual molestation occurs online and the associated factors let us now look at the profile that is most common among many online sexual molesters. For most online sexual molesters internet is a safe haven so to speak that offers them with the privacy, anonymity, freedom, confidence, flexibility that they most require (Carnes, 1992).
It enables them to bask in the limelight of their vices unconcerned and indifferent safe in knowing that it is unlikely they will be found out.
The process that is involved in profiling online sexual molesters undertakes to divide the molesters into two categories; virtual offenders and classic offender (Kimberley, 2005). The profiling framework that is usually used is one that was developed based on a case study done on 22 online sexual offenders who were caught and their behaviors and analyzed (Kimberley, 2005). The framework defines virtual offenders as the type of sexual offenders that engage in the vise motivated by the privacy, anonymity and other advantages offered by the nature of cyberspace (Kimberley, 2005). The classic offenders are defined as the type who engages in online conversation with only one intention in their mind which is to make their fantasy come true eventually through an arranged meeting. They are usually repeat offenders whose eventual action of physical sexual molestation is always premeditated. The classic offenders for some reasons overwhelmingly are always engaged in sexual molestation of minors and they present the greatest threat to minors in the website.
By use of a tabular scale that included entries such as sexual interests, chat dialogue, online conduct, frequency and proffered chat partners. The chronic offender scored highly in all this areas compared to the virtual offender whose general conduct and scale appeared erratic at best (Kimberley, 2005). Classic offender's motivation therefore went beyond what could be considered average rates in online participation. The energy and the enthusiasm that they exhibited in their participation in online sexual molestation of minors must surely have been motivated by other hidden factors and reasons.
It is not hard to draw the parallels between this group, and say for example that of persons addicted to drugs, as far as addiction is concerned.
The U.S State department provides to the public a list of more than thirty characteristics that the population can use to identify a sexual molester (Salter, 2003). But the State department provides a general profile that applies to all sexual molesters. Therefore though it is helpful it fails to address the specific nature of sexual molestation as they occur in this day and age. Online sexual molesters are among the most varied in terms of personality and age (Salter, 2003). They are also the highest category, 70% percentage that makes up the general numbers of sexual molesters (Salter, 2003). But they have one thing that they all have in common which runs deep in them, the vivacity and the amount of time they are willing to spend online in social network sites, unfortunately not only for them.
They are usually described as addicted to internet use (Salter, 2003). Online sexual molesters are always prowling the networks checking out new social networking site and registering. Most of them are registered in more than one site under variety of nick names (Salter, 2003). At any one moment they are engaged in conversation with more than one person that matches the target group of interest for the molester. They can easily pass as any other person on site looking for normal friendship. Initially their conversation is well guided and they seem like very civilized persons who are well educated.
However this is only a ruse that they use to create rapport and build trust with their intended victim. This is more so for online pedophiles who will usually take their time to know and learn the personality of their minor intended victims. They are not in a hurry and they take their time.
They also play very nice and would hardly engage in sexual conversations initially. But when you pay more close attention and look deep the cracks began to emerge but only for a well informed mind.
Because they are always engaged in conversation with more than one person they will at times confuse their lines in the process. They will project what would seem like minor slips in conversations that for instance results in getting your name wrong or not able to recall. Their story as well will be confused, though they always have a well rehearsed story for each user name. When pressed for further details they will crack, for instance asking them which class thy attended during the day and which topic they specifically covered. For most online sexual molesters thy have a user profile that projects a certain desired personality which they figure would click with the victims in mind (Salter, 2003).
Some pedophiles are likely to project an image of a young student of about the same age with the victims. But not all sexual online molesters fit this profile there is also a sizable number that are downright sexually repulsive in every form of their conversation from the word go (Farella, 2002). This is to say online sexual profiling can swing both ways, but the real dangerous one are the calculating type, the smooth talkers who bind their times. This is the category to watch for they are the one who are committed, and sexual molestation is their business.
In a study done by "Centre for Online Addiction", (2005). The centre established that majority of people likely to engage in online sexual molestation involved men (Kimberley, 2005). In fact all of the cases that it tracked during this study involved men with two distinct other characteristic among them. They had no previous record of sexual molestation and therefore were their first case of online sexual molestation with minors. Two the nature of their sexual molestation involved a minor for each and every one of them (2005). Needless to say the highest proportion of online sexual molestation occurs between a minor and an adult, and the minor is always the victim in this case
Another factor that one can use to identify an online sexual molester is by learning about their childhood background. A proportionally huge numbers of the molesters themselves have been molested at one point during the childhood. What is more is that their intended age group of their victims they choose fits with the age groups at which they were molested (Kimberley, 2005). But this by itself is information that is hard to get for anyone but which nevertheless is important to note. It is more valuable however to agencies which are engaged at profiling online sexual molestation suspects and vetting organizational employees that requires working directly with children.
The sexual molesters come from all walks of life, professionals in their fields who lead normal life's with families and living happily. They have no indication of mental disturbance and they do a good job hiding their true nature even to the closest members.
Except for the fact that they frequent social networks and are avid bloggers in social networks, one would not naturally pay any more attention. But this is as far as online sexual molesting is concerned. For online minor sexual molesters their passions revolves around children and therefore are more likely to be engaged in activities that usually put them together with children in the same place.
They therefore use social networks to organize forum that bring together community minors in some sort of community social activity. Through innovative ways that their true intention is hard to decipher more so for minors who appreciates the presence of a mentor. For most they are more inclined to have a database of pornographic pictures of their favorite group of minors stored which they use to feed their appetite.
Aggregated by the personality habits the Centre for Online Addiction found that among the study case study "47% of the clients suffered from depression or anxiety, 39% had a history of alcoholism or drug dependence, 19% had a history of sex addiction, and 10% had a history of sexual abuse." (2005). Of all the cases less than half of them therefore had no any form of mental condition and were regarded as normal persons but weighed down with the usual lifestyles of life. This is just to show how profiling an online sexual molester is hardly an easy task. It is definitely one that cannot come up with a general guideline that can capture within the framework all the type of online sexual molesters that are constantly prowling the net.
- Carnes, P. (1992). Out of the Shadows: Understanding Sexual Addiction. Hazelden, MN: Hazelden Publishing.
- Farella, C. (2002). The unthinkable problem of pedophilia. Nursing Spectrum. Available at: http://community.nursingspectrum.com/magazine/articles.cfm?AID=8291/html
- Kimberley, Y. (2005). Profiling Online Sex Offenders, Cyber-Predators and Pedophiles. Journal of Behavioral Profiling, 5, 1-18
- Salter, A. (2003). Pedophiles, Rapists, and Other Sex Offenders: Who They Are, How They Operate, and How We Can Protect Ourselves and Our Children. New York, NY: Basic Books.
- Young, K. S. (1998). Internet addiction: The emergence of a new clinical disorder. CyberPsychology and Behavior; 15, 237-244.
- Young, K. S. (2001) Tangled in the Web: Understanding Cybersex from Fantasy to Addiction. Bloomington, IN: 1stbooks Library.