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Men visit online forums for "advice" on how to groom children

11 December 2014 | Tags: online grooming, sex offenders, sexual abuse

A new book published today uncovers details about the way some men with a sexual interest in children interact with each other online, revealing that some men get advice and tips about how to groom children in online forums.

Based on detailed interviews with 33 convicted sexual offenders around Europe, a majority of whom were convicted in England and Wales, the book “Online Offending Behaviour and Child Victimisation” explains that some men described the online networks as “educational”.

One offender who had been involved with the online network “Boy Lovers” said: “It’s the fact that I could talk to other boy-lovers, as it were, and see how they would do things. I would post things on there and they would post messages back. They would give me advice, as to what the next step was.”

Published by Palgrave MacMillan, the book also reveals that the very existence of the groups may make some offenders feel that a sexual interest in children is “normal”. The authors argue that online forums could be helping some of these men come to terms with their interest in children.

A participant in the study said that his involvement in online networks “goes back to about being, wanting to be accepted, feeling people wanted to talk to me and everything.”

Impact of viewing indecent images of children

The book’s authors also found some evidence to support the idea that looking at indecent images of children could increase offending behaviour for some people.

Some of the men interviewed described moving from adult pornography to indecent images and then the grooming of children while others said that over time they moved to harder and more violent indecent images of children.

One offender explained “It escalated because when I first started it was just the odd pornographic image I was looking at, and by the time I was arrested my computer could be on 24 hours a day downloading off file share software . . . I think I was looking for higher level images, to get the same satisfaction.”

But men convicted for online grooming are diverse.  There were some that did not use any indecent images of children or online networks at all.

Co-editor of the book, Stephen Webster a Research Psychologist at NatCen Social Research said “These findings show that an online world exists that could be supporting or enabling a sexual interest in children. It also highlights the importance of making support available to men with a sexual interest in children – we want them to be able to turn to mental health professionals or helplines like Stop it Now! not to other men on the internet.” 

ENDS

If you would like to receive a copy of the book in advance or to speak with Stephen Webster contact: Leigh Marshall, Head of Press at NatCen Social Research, on 0207 549 8506/07828 031 850 leigh.marshall@natcen.ac.uk   

Notes to editors

About the editors:

Stephen Webster is a research psychologist at NatCen Social Research where he delivers mixed-method crime and justice research studies.  A Chartered Psychologist with the British Psychological Society, his career includes eight years as a Senior Research Psychologist for HM Prison Service. During this time he led the research, assessment and evaluation of HM Prison Service suite of sexual offender treatment programmes.

Julia Davidson is Professor of Criminology, Middlesex University, UK; Co-Director, Centre for, Abuse and Trauma Studies, UK and Adjunct Professor, Faculty of Law, Queensland University of Technology, Australia.

Antonia Bifulco is Professor of Psychology and Head of the Department of Psychology, Middlesex, University, UK and Co-Director of the Centre for Abuse and Trauma Studies, UK.