Dr Juliane Kloess, a postdoctoral research fellow in the Centre for Forensic and Criminological Psychology, recently published a paper which aims to provide an inclusive and realistic account of the offence processes of naturally occurring, sexually exploitative interactions between offenders and victims that take place via Internet communication platforms.
The transcripts of chat logs were analysed using thematic analysis, and police files were reviewed for descriptive and case-specific information. Offenders were men aged between 27 and 52 years, and the number of children they communicated with ranged from one to twelve. Victims were aged between 11 and 15, and were both female and male. Findings revealed that offenders employed either an indirect or a direct approach to conversations with victims and initiating contact with them. An indirect approach featured aspects of sexual grooming and preparation of the victim by the offender, whereas a direct approach lacked features thereof. The approach offenders employed was also reflected in the types of strategies they used.
Contrary to common perception, the majority of offenders in this study employed a very direct approach, with interactions lacking features of sexual grooming. Only two offenders were found to engage in aspects thereof as part of an indirect approach. The paper discusses these findings in relation to current issues surrounding the terminology and definition of sexual grooming, as well as theoretical and practical implications, and concludes with suggestions for future research.