Children who are victims of sexual abuse are increasingly coming into contact with the perpetrator through social media. This has been shown by research by the Netherlands Forensic Institute.
In more than a quarter of the investigated cases, the first contact with the victim was made via apps such as Snapchat and Tiktok. Two years ago it was still 11 percent.
On behalf of the police and the Public Prosecution Service, doctors of the NFI looked at 86 acute sex offenses in which teenagers between the ages of 11 and 15 were victims. A case is acute if the sexual abuse took place within the previous seven days. In 23 cases, the perpetrator made the first contact on social media, most of them on the popular Snapchat app.
Many young people and children use Snapchat to take and share photos and videos, which are temporarily visible.
Do not underestimate impact
“We see a clear upward trend in the influence of social media in the cases we have investigated last year,” says forensic doctor Wouter Karst of the NFI. “We think it is important to share this signal, to warn children and parents. . “
Young people spend a lot of time behind the screen of their computer or smartphone. Now that they spend a lot of time at home due to the corona crisis, they also spend more time on the internet.
“Perpetrators know exactly how to deal with it. They invest in contact with the adolescent. Ultimately it comes to a physical appointment with all the consequences that entails”, says Iva Bicanic, head of the Center for Sexual Violence. She calls the numbers worrying. “The impact of this type of abuse on the victim and his or her family should not be underestimated.”
The working method of the digital child molester becomes grooming mentioned. The groomer pretends to be interested in his victim. He builds a relationship of trust by chatting about hobbies and interests and thus gathers personal information about the young person.
At a certain point he directs towards sex and asks his contact to undress or send sexually explicit photos. With this he blackmails the victim and he can exert pressure to actually meet somewhere.
The police also endorse the increasing role of smartphones and social media in sex offenses. “We see in almost all sex offenses, both adult and underage victims, that victims and suspects communicate with each other, before or after the incident”, says Lidewijde van Lier of the police. “We undeniably stress the importance of being alert to children’s online behavior.”