Predators1Although many terms are used to describe sex offenders,  Dr. Park Elliot Dietz best categorizes these offenders as situational  and preferential.  Ken Lanning of the FBI further writes on the subject that situational  offenders do not have a true sexual preference for children, but will  engage in sexual acts with children for varied and complex reasons,  while preferential offenders prefer children sexually and their sexual  fantasies and erotic imagery focus entirely on children.

Offenders mainly seek fuel for their fantasies, which can come in the  form of conversation and relationship building with potential victims.   Offenders also seek visual and textual depiction’s in the form of  images, movies, and stories where children of a preferred age and  gender are engaged in sexual behaviors.  If these things are not  available, the offender usually gravitates toward conversations with  persons of similar interest and preferences.

Offenders also dedicate a big portion of their time to seeking an  ever-growing pool of victims.  The preferential offender may even  center his life around his sexual preferences.  Just as a smoker wakes  up in the morning and reaches for the morning cigarette, the sexual  offender wakes up with the following questions:

Where do I find victims?

The Internet has made this question easier  to answer.  While the victim pool for a youth group leader is 30 to 40  kids, or for a high school coach is perhaps 100 to 150 victims, the  victim pool of the online offender is much, much larger.

How do I develop relationships?

The Internet has made this easier as  well.  In the past offenders gravitated toward social settings and  positions of trust to build relationships with victims.  And if they  lacked the sophistication and social skills needed to achieve these  roles, the offender lurked in parks and playgrounds or used physical  force to gain access to potential victims.  Today, this same offender  can present himself as anything he chooses.  With the click of a button,  he can become someone else.

How do I introduce sex?

While the introduction of sex by a more  traditional offender to a victim was tricky and risky, the environment  in even “non-sexual” chat rooms enable an offender to begin presenting  sexual topics with little fear of repercussion.  Adults, or more  commonly adults pretending to be other children, often sexualize their  potential victims through sexually explicit conversations and  pornography.  The images first depict adult nudity then progress to  normal sex acts, deviant sexual acts, and sexually explicit images  involving children.

How do I make sure they don’t tell?

sexual-predatorsWhile the traditional sexual  offender needed to take extra steps to prevent disclosure by the  victim, the online offender risks very little even if disclosure is  made.  When a child tells a parent about traditional inappropriate  sexual conduct by an adult, his/her parents take action.  Confiding  about inappropriate conduct by an online offender often results in the  parent chastising or disciplining the child for being in a “bad” chat  room or viewing “dirty pictures”.  This can make it easier for an  offender to convince a young victim not to tell.

Sexual predators are lurking online in vast numbers.  Just as we are  careful to watch our children in public areas, we must also keep a  close check on their online activity.  If you believe your child has  been approached online by a sexual offender, contact the Ahoskie  Police Department at (252) 332-5011.