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  1. The European Online Grooming Project_Findings Launch The British Academy 3rd February 2011

  2. Presentation overview • The European Online Grooming Project_ • Legislative and empirical context • Project design • Interview findings • Young people online • Safety, treatment & policy implications • Next steps

  3. European Consortium • UK • Stephen Webster, National Centre for Social Research, London • Professor Julia Davidson, Kingston University, London • Professor Antonia Bifulco, Kingston University, London • Belgium • Professor Thierry Pham, University de Mons, Belgium • Italy • Professor Vincenzo Caretti, Università degli Studi di Palermo • Norway • Professor Petter Gottschalk Norwegian School of Management, Oslo

  4. The European Online Grooming Project_ • Largest study of online grooming to date. • Aims: • understand the different ways sexual offenders approach, communicate and ‘groom’ young people online. • empower policy makers, front line professionals, teachers, carers and young people to effectively manage online risks. • Co-funded by the European Union, through the Safer Internet Plus Programme. Running from June 2009 to December 2011

  5. Scale of the Challenge 30m US children online in 2000 (Gottschalk, 2010); 2,660 reports of inappropriate approaches (Centre for Exploited & Missing Children). UK: 1 in 5 young people receive sexual solicitation, over two thirds unsupervised online (Davidson & Martellozzo, 2008). CEOP: (11/2010): 6291 reports via ‘panic button’, 66% related to online grooming. Increase in self-taken images of young people in offender collections.

  6. EU Directives • ‘Combating the Sexual Abuse, Sexual Exploitation of Children and Child Pornography’ (2009) outlines protection challenge with wide variation in criminal law and enforcement. • Article 5 - online grooming ‘solicitation of children for sexual purposes’ (p5)… • each member state to ensure this conduct is punishable in law. • children under age of consent under national law, adult arranges to meet for the purposes of sexual abuse via 'an information system’ (p5). ‘

  7. Lisbon Treaty • European Commission (03/10) • indecent child image websites blocked from the Internet. • human traffickers handed maximum sentences of 5-10 years. • Proposal's scope would also punish grooming and ensure abusers cannot re-offend in another EU country. • Change use of term ‘child pornography’ to ‘indecent image’.

  8. National Legislation UK one of the first EU states to initiate online grooming legislation (s15, Sexual Offences Act 2003, England & Wales). Norway followed the UK’s example (2007), General Civil Penal Code, Article 195. Sweden introduced legislation in 2009. No online grooming legislation in Belgium or Italy.

  9. Research Context Literature focussed primarily on indecent image evidence to date (Seto & Eke 2005; O’Brien & Webster 2007). Some co-occurrence of contact sexual offences among indecent image offenders (Wolak et al, 2005; Seto et al, 2006; Hernandez, 2000). Position remains unclear.

  10. Theoretical Framework • Cannot explain online grooming without understanding the offender – computer – young person interaction. • Multiple theories explored to explain the behaviour: • online disinhibition effect (Suller, 2004) • self-regulation model (Ward & Hudson, 2005) • attachment theory (van Ijzendorm, 1997; Burk & Burkhart, 2003) • cognitive-affective processes (Fonagy, 1999; Fonagy et al 2002) • contextual ecological models (Bronfenbrenner, 1995)

  11. Research Findings

  12. Research Design • Three interlinked phases: • Scoping interviews with stakeholders (police officers, treatment providers, industry staff), case-file review; development of theoretical model; literature review. • In-depth interviews with 33 online groomers in the UK, Norway, & Belgium – chat-logs from Italy. • Workshops with parents, teachers & young people. • Framework analysis - case & theme based approach.

  13. Sample (n=33)

  14. Challenging Assumptions • “All online groomers want to meet young people…” • “Pornography and indecent images cause online offending…” • “Young people are passive when communicating with adults….” • “All online offending involves socialisation…..”

  15. Who are Online Groomers? • Like contact sexual offenders – not a homogeneous group. Where differ: • high IQ but not particularly high educational attainment • IT competence seems to be primarily self taught, via workplace, observing family and online research • Using full range of ICT hardware, chatrooms, social networking sites, file-sharing sites and game platforms to contact young people

  16. Features of Online Grooming Maintenance Risk Management Vulnerability Scanning Online Environment Dissonance IT Security Identity Private Spaces Contact Desensitisation & Intensity Outcomes

  17. Online Environment The Internet Confidence Stimulation Scale ‘plenty of fish in the sea, you’ll catch one eventually’ Addiction Tense if not online Disinhibition Anonymity (on both sides) Normalising explicit sexual conduct Maintenance Dissonance • Adult & Child Images & Chat • Justifies abuse • Fuels fantasy • Escalates some behaviours • Offence Supportive Beliefs • Harm reduction views • Socio-affective reasons • External locus of control Perceptions, Behaviour of YP • Sexual screen names • Sexual chat

  18. Grooming Features • Contact • Single & multiple encounters • Varied timescale • Diverse styles • Desensitisation & Intensity • Sex request • ‘You test them by saying are you this or that and see if receptive..’ • Incentives • Threats • Outcomes • Collect image • Meet young person • Vulnerability • Situational • Interpersonal • Scanning • Mapping • Random • Virtual presentation • Identity • Self • Minor changes • Other • ‘I never used my own identity, you change names, you lay it on..’

  19. Risk Management • Personal logistics online • Proxy servers • Hiding images/chat • Multiple hardware & phones • Personal spaces • Private forums • Switch to phone • Geography • Different victim location from home

  20. Distorted Attachment Believe in mutual consent/love No images or group contact Longer contact process Uses own identity Physical meeting Hyper-Sexual Dehumanise YP Extensive image collections Contact with other offenders Tailored/sexual identity Fast, impersonal contact methods Classifying Online Offenders Adaptable Offender • Own needs focus • Believes YP mature/provocative • Minimal image collections, if any • Tailored contact /mirroring victim • Own & tailored identity

  21. Features of Online Grooming & Types Maintenance Risk Management Vulnerability Scanning Online Environment Dissonance IT Security Identity Private Spaces Contact Desensitisation & Intensity Outcomes

  22. Young People Online

  23. Context • Project focused on interviewing online groomers only. No direct contact with victims. • Themes included in offender topic guide regarding age, choice of victims, type of grooming approach & victims’ response. • Although not a statistically drawn sample, victims described by the online groomers in this research tended to be female teenagers.

  24. Existing Research Evidence Vulnerable: high affection needs, attention, difficult relationships with parent. Seeking ‘love’ online - a true relationship. Resist disclosure to continue ‘relationship’. Risk-taking: seek adventure, disinhibited, feel in control. Less known about family risks. Open to non-disclosure ‘blackmail’ - own behaviour used by groomer as proof of cooperation or seduction. Resilient: fend off approaches considered ‘weird’. Adopt safety messages. Secure family backgrounds. Palmer, 2006, Davidson & Martelozzo, 2008

  25. Vulnerability Dimensions: 1 Loneliness ‘Many of the girls lacked adult contact….they felt safe with me.. I always made time…’ When a girl said she was in love with me, it was easier to handle’. Self-harm Self-mutilation observed by at physical meeting. Self-esteem Concern about body image -groomer exploits by mirroring compliments.

  26. Vulnerability Dimensions: 2 Concurrent sexual abuse • ‘She wanted attention in her life, she said she had lost her mum and her step-dad abused her’. • ‘They had no hang ups, they were already being abused’. Family Break-up • Looked after young people, separated children. • Consequently….offender meets needs to extent they perceive young person in control of the encounter: • ‘She began to pester me to go online and talk to her’. • ‘She could walk away from me at any time and she new this’. • ‘They ask me, they’re re convinced they’re adults, who’s the victim’?

  27. Disinhibited Online Risk-Takers Involved using sexual screen names; using sexual chat; populating adult chat rooms; sending explicit images of self. Online groomers watch for and drawn to this: ‘she said ‘I’d love to shag an older guy’. one girl said, “would you like to see me naked?”’ ‘she said “Hi I’m 16 and fancy chatting to a fifty-year old”’. However, online confidence did not always mirror offline reality: ‘she was really quiet when met, even after a few meetings she never really said anything’. ‘she presented as womanly and mature but when we met I knew it was just a mask….’

  28. Resilient Young People Evidence of safety messages getting through as offenders told by some to ‘go away’ in no uncertain terms. ‘It was not easy as young girls had been taught not to talk to guy’s age 20’. ‘when presented own identity, was told ‘piss off you nonce’. ‘sometimes they would hang up and I’d just forget it’. ‘I wouldn’t get cross if the girls said ‘no’ I would just move on to the next one’.

  29. Explanatory Frameworks for Offender & Victim Self-regulation: under-regulation, mis-regulation, disinhibition. Attachment patterns: social approach/avoidance – loneliness, lack of social confidence, anonymity to mask fear of rejection, lack of empathy. Cognitive-affective processes: defensive patterns, mentalisation, self-awareness, denial. Contextual social factors: opportunity, access, desensitisation, internet availability young people.

  30. Matching of Offender and Victim Offender Young Person Distorted attachment Vulnerable Adaptable Focus own need Risk taking Hyper- sexualised Resilient Psychological Profile Attachment/vulnerability Disinhibition/regulation Context & Protective factors

  31. Implications

  32. Prevention, Intervention & Treatment Safety messages to YP, parents teachers Technological preventative solutions Monitoring, risk awareness, diagnostic tools

  33. Online Safety & Industry: 1 Targeting • Why are some YP more resilient, less likely to interact? Messages • Consider online disinhibition in context of safety campaigns for YP, should there be a more targeted approach? • Can industry work more proactively to raise awareness with young people, parents and educators? • Appropriate online behaviour, ethical use, digital footprint – level 1 images in offender collections.

  34. Online Safety & Industry: 2 Logistics • Consider how SNS might ‘design out’ offender behaviour (grooming, networking, indecent image sharing). Is more specialist monitoring possible? Health Consequences • Issue of harm in context of offender approach- all YP may be harmed at some level. How can this be managed?

  35. Offender Management & Assessment Management Consider if possible to more closely monitor Internet related behaviours under MAPPA? Assessment Understand risks that accompany certain behaviours. Develop validated diagnostic tools that allow for exploration of online behaviours with all offenders.

  36. Offender Treatment • The role of the Internet within treatment - nature of online reality for individuals. How easy it is for some offenders to feel anonymous and disinhibited. The process of networking and normalising. • Consider moving away from Internet only treatment groups – some issues no different to other CSAs.

  37. Reflections for the Panel…… • A public health problem that requires a multi-disciplinary, flexible response: Tailored safety programmes Awareness for parents & educators Managing Online Grooming Offender risk & intervention Secure online environments

  38. Next Steps • Focus groups with parents, teachers and young people (March – May 2011) • Annual report (June 2011) • Final report (December 2011)

  39. Further Information • http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/activities/sip/index_en.htm Project Contacts: • s.webster@natcen.ac.uk; j.davidson@kingston.ac.uk; antonia.bifulco@kingston.ac.uk; vincenzocaretti@tiscali.it; petter.gottschalk@bi.no; thierrypham@yahoo.fr

  40. Staying in touch • www.european-online-grooming-project.com • Follow us on twitter @NatCen • Remember to hashtag the European Online Grooming Project #POG