Using Luring Communication Theory to Analyze the Behavior of Online Sexual Offenders

Using Luring Communication Theory to Analyze the Behavior of Online Sexual Offenders

Charles R. Crowell (University of Notre Dame, USA), Jamie Segerson (University of Notre Dame, USA), Mitchell D. Kajzer (University of Notre Dame, USA), Michael Villano (University of Notre Dame, USA), Julaine Zenk (University of Notre Dame, USA), Veronica Wegner (University of Notre Dame, USA) and Monica M. Bell (University of Notre Dame, USA)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 18
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9715-5.ch037

Abstract

Use of the internet by sexual offenders to communicate with children and instigate sexual relationships is an ever-increasing problem that threatens the safety and wellbeing of these victims. The present study was the first of its kind to investigate the differences between contact- and fantasy-driven offenders in terms of their use of luring communications. Seventy-three chat transcripts of conversations between offenders and undercover investigators posing as children (pseudo-children) were analyzed and coded for luring communication strategies. Results indicated that contact-driven offenders made significantly more use of the main luring steps of isolation and approach as well as the sub-steps of mental isolation, physical isolation, verbal lead ins, and physical contact. Fantasy-driven offenders made more use of the main luring step of grooming as well as the sub-step of communicative desensitization. The main implications of these findings for identification of online sexual offenders were discussed.
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Background

Differences in the Etiology of Sexual Offending

Considerable past work has indicated that people become SOs in different ways and for different reasons. Building on the earlier work of Finkelhor and Araji (1986), who provided a comprehensive explanation for sexually deviant behavior, Hall and Hirschman (1991), Ward and Siegert (2002), and Middleton, Elliott, Mandeville-Norden, and Beech (2006) all have proposed models of sexual deviancy based on the influence of specific psychological and physiological contributing factors, such as cognitive distortions, difficulties with emotional regulation, personality problems, deviant triggers for sexual arousal, and intimacy deficits, all of which may lead to a distorted understanding of what defines appropriate sexual behavior, a condition sometimes referred to as having a deviant sexual script. According to these models, not all of the same contributing factors necessarily need to be present or even dominant for individuals to become SOs. This variability across individuals in the specific factors that can result in the emergence of sexual deviancy means that there are different etiologies, or experiential pathways, for becoming an SO. However, as noted by Middleton et al. (2006), when multiple factors are present simultaneously in an individual, they may develop the pure pedophile deviant sexual script in which there is a strong, if not exclusive, preference for children as sexual partners. These SOs gravitate toward online environments because of the greater number of potential victims and the aforementioned anonymity these situations provide (Davidson & Gottschalk, 2011; Suler, 2004)

Key Terms in this Chapter

Contact-Driven Offender: Online sexual offenders who seek face-to-face contact with their child victims to engage in physical sexual activity ( Briggs et al., 2011 ).

Approach: LCT step used more by contact-driven offenders to facilitate in-person meeting.

Fantasy-Driven Offender: Online sexual offenders who seek only online interactions with children; often marked by illicit messages, exhibitionism, and child pornography ( Briggs et al., 2011 ).

Grooming: LCT Step used more by fantasy-driven offenders to preparing for sexual behavior.

Isolation: LCT step used more by contact-driven offenders to separate victim from support network.

Pseudo-Child: A law enforcement officer or a volunteer posing as a child in a chatroom.

Perverted Justice: A grass-roots vigilante organization where volunteers pose as children online in order to expose offenders.

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