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Most Internet Sex Offenders Target Teens, Not Kids
Date:2/22/2008

Surveys say most vulnerable youths have history of abuse, family problems

FRIDAY, Feb. 22 (HealthDay News) -- The stereotype of the middle-aged male sex offender posing online as a young person to trick adolescents into clandestine meetings where they can be abducted and raped is inaccurate, a new study finds.

Instead, Internet-initiated sex crimes most often involve adult men who do not lie about their age, are open about wanting sex, and use instant messaging, e-mail and chat rooms to meet and seduce teenagers, according to research published in the February/March issue of American Psychologist, the journal of the American Psychological Association.

According to study co-author David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, most arrested sex offenders who find victims on the Internet are charged with crimes such as statutory rape that involve nonviolent sexual relations with adolescents too young to consent to sexual intercourse.

The research team found that online sexual predators rarely resorted to violence or abduction of their victims. Instead, the sex offenders worked slowly, developing the trust of their young victims who felt these relationships were romances or sexual adventures.

"We have to be frank about what is going on if we are going to stop the problem. The teens are often looking for attention, affection, excitement and romance. That doesn't make it a less serious problem, because the teenagers may in some ways contribute to the situation. The adult should know that having sexual relationships with young teenagers is against the law, but they go ahead and do it. It is still a crime," said Finkelhor.

The research was compiled from three surveys -- two telephone interviews totaling 3,000 young Internet users between the ages of 10 and 17 conducted both in 2000 and 2005 and 612 interviews in 2001 and 2002 with
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Most Internet Sex Offenders Target Teens, Not Kids
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