On May 3, the Congressional Internet Caucus Advisory Committee held a briefing entitled Just the Facts about Online Youth Victimization: Researchers Present the Facts and Debunk Myths.
It’s about time.
David Finkelhor, Director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, perhaps provided the most challenging counter example to media portrayals of online victimization. Using the real-life tale of “Jenna” (not her real name), he shows how the 13-year-old girl knew that her new “boyfriend” was 45 when they met online. Nevertheless, she willingly went to the motel room where he was staying and they had sex. When her assailant was apprehended, she didn’t want to press charges and stated that she was in love with the much older man.
Finkelhor says it is dangerous and misleading to have adults believe that online predators lie and physically force their victims to be with them. “These are not violent sex crimes. They are criminal seductions that take advantage of common teenage vulnerabilities. The offenders play on teens’ desires for romance, adventure, sexual information, understanding.”
In other words, this is an old story — troubled child from broken home is taken advantage of by someone who says he cares. Same tune, different instrument.