Jump into child sexual assault online
“The offenders were able to create the idea of a relationship in the child’s mind and this reduced their sense of alien danger.”
Dr Rowse, senior forensic registrar at the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine, said potential abusers were willing to invest time in preparing child victims. “We have seen a significant number of cases where online communication took place for more than two weeks, in some cases up to a year, before the sexual assault took place.”
However, in other cases, “the victim and the perpetrator communicated for less than a day, they met online and the same day met face to face and the sexual assault took place.”
In the early years of the study, between 2007 and 2013, three-quarters of offenders had used Facebook to communicate with child victims, but between 2014 and 2016, dating apps, many of which are said to be too young to access, began to appear.
Between 2017 and 2020, Snapchat had been the platform used by almost half of the offenders.
Teen dating apps like MyLOL and Yubo, along with adult dating sites like Tinder, Grindr, and Skout, made up a third of contacts, while Facebook fell to just 16%.
About a third of technology-facilitated assaults occurred in the offender’s home, and just over a third occurred in public places, including parks and public washrooms.
Dr Rowse has expressed concerns about children on adult sites and children too young to be on Snapchat using it regularly. “The minimum age for Snapchat is 13 years old but according to a just study by [international tech child protection agency] Spiked, about 40 percent of children aged 9 to 12 use it every day.
Dr Tully said road safety equivalents of “seat belts and airbags” did not exist on platforms commonly used by children and there should be a much greater responsibility for safety. demanded of the platforms, including better control of minors who have access to them and better responses when incidents of concern have been reported by children.
“And the legal system needs to increase the accountability of platforms that fail to protect children,” she said.
Earlier risk education, including “framing alien danger” online, and stronger messages that “friends are not friends when you only meet them online” should be delivered to children .
Dr Rowse said that while adult dating sites such as Tinder have attempted to improve security (through practical, data-driven means), “we’ve noticed that there doesn’t seem to be the same concern for children and we hope to shed light on this point, this is the missing part ”.
The number of children who reported the assault within the time required to collect DNA evidence was also only a “small subset” of the actual number of victims.
Barriers to reporting crimes to the police were probably higher for children than for adults, due to the heightened sense of “stigma and shame, a sense of responsibility for the assault because they voluntarily encountered it. ‘aggressor, or sometimes because of the sharing of images “.
“Fear of reactions from parents or group peers is also a significant barrier to reporting violations,” said Dr. Tully.
Dr Rowse said the platforms were changing so quickly that it was nearly impossible for parents to stay on top of the publication of risks to children.
“We recognize that technology is now an integral part of children’s lives. We believe that it is difficult for parents to take full responsibility for what their children do online, there [prevention of and response to sexual abuse facilitated by technology] has to be much more systemic than that, ”she said.