Children who are victims of sexual abuse are increasingly in contact with the offender via social media. This is evident from research carried out by the Dutch Forensic Institute.
In more than a quarter of cases investigated, first contact with the victim was made through apps like Snapchat and Tiktok last year. Two years ago, it was 11 percent.
Doctors from the NFI looked at 86 acute sex cases on behalf of the police and the Public Prosecutors Office, involving teenagers between 11 and 15 years of age. A case is acute if the sexual abuse occurred within the preceding seven days. In 23 cases, the perpetrator had made the first contact on social media, most of which on the popular app Snapchat.
Many young people and children use Snapchat to create and share photos and videos, which are temporarily visible.
Do not underestimate impact
“ We see a clearly rising trend in the influence of social media in the cases we investigated last year,” says forensic physician Wouter Karst of the NFI. “We think its 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 sit at home a lot due to the coronacrisis, they also spend more time on the Internet.
“ The perpetrators know exactly how to deal with it. Theyre investing in contact with the adolescent. Eventually 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 method of the digital childrens attractor is called grooming. The groomer pretends to be interested in his victim. He builds a trusting relationship by chatting about hobbies and interests, thus collecting personal information about the young person.
At a certain point, he sends for sex and asks his contact to undress or send sexually tinted pictures. In doing so, he blackmailed the victim and can exert pressure to actually meet somewhere.
The police also endorse the increasing role of smartphones and social media in sex matters. “We see in almost all sex cases, both in adult and minor victims, that victims and suspects communicate with each other before or after the incident,” says Lidewijde van Lier of the police. “We undoubtedly underline the importance of being alert to childrens online behavior.”