Researchers reveal communication tactics used by sexual predators to entrap children

Apr 17, 2008

A child’s innocence and vulnerability presents a target for a sexual predator’s abusive behavior. University of Missouri researchers are beginning to understand the communication process by which predators lure victims into a web of entrapment. This information could better equip parents and community members to prevent, or at least interrupt, the escalation of child sexual abuse.

“Our children are our greatest gift and our greatest responsibility. The fact that they could be abused in any way, shape or form is horrific--both in the moment of the abuse and in the long-term effect,” said Loreen Olson, MU associate professor of communication in the College of Arts and Science. “It’s a social problem with grave consequences that is prevalent and needs attention. It’s incomprehensible, but it’s happening. The sexual abuse of children has dramatic negative consequences to their emotional well-being throughout their lives.”

According to the researchers, in order for the process of entrapment to take place, the perpetrator must first gain access to the potential victim through various exploitive means. Olson and her team identified several communicative elements in the cycle of entrapment, including the core phenomenon of “deceptive trust development.” Deceptive trust development describes the predator’s ability to build a trusting relationship with the victim in order to improve the likelihood of sexual encounter.

Deceptive trust development is central to other manipulative strategies used by the predator such as grooming. Grooming sets the stage for abuse by desensitizing the victim to sexual contact. Grooming may include activities such as sitting on a child’s bed and watching them get into their bedclothes; “accidentally” touching the child inappropriately; showing the child pornographic images; and making contact or sex play with implicit sexual suggestions.

As perpetrators are grooming their victims and building deceptive trust, they also work to isolate them both physically and emotionally from their support network. Isolation strategies may include offers to baby sit, giving the child a ride home, and taking advantage of fragile family and friend relationships. Isolation causes the victim to become more and more dependent on the perpetrator.

A third strategy is approach, which is the initial physical contact or verbal lead-ins that occur just prior to the sexual act. Examples of approach strategies include suggestions to play sex games, more explicit discussions about sexual issues, giving a child a “rubdown,” bathing or undressing a child, and instigating wrestling and other physical games as a means to escalate sexual physical contact.

Olson, and her co-authors analyzed existing published material on pedophilia and child sexual abuse and proposed their theory that explains the communication process used by child sexual predators. Their theory of luring communication is part of a new area of study which Olson calls “the communication of deviance.”

“The more we know about how these adults are entrapping children and building a sexual relationship with them, the better we can either intervene and stop the cycle from happening, or de-escalate it,” Olson said.

According to the study, the theory of luring communication also may offer important insight into social, deviant and communicative problems plaguing society, such as how con-artists lure victims and the recruitment strategies of gang or cult members.

Source: University of Missouri-Columbia

Explore further: Experts call for higher exam pass marks to close performance gap between international and UK medical graduates

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Prosecutors welcome app to track down child predators

Oct 31, 2013

With more than half of all Americans now using smartphones to stay in touch, federal authorities are venturing into new territory in a bid to enlist the public's help to track down child predators.

A high price to pay for cheap technology

Sep 17, 2013

Rape in war cannot be addressed in isolation. It is deeply embedded in both the local context and that of global proportions. This is one of the conclusions made in a doctoral thesis about eastern Democratic Republic of Congo ...

How can we protect young people from cyberbullying?

Aug 16, 2013

The recent arrest by Canadian police of two young people who allegedly shared a photo of a young woman being sexually assaulted has once again highlighted the danger that social media can pose for teenagers.

Twitter threats highlight blight of online trolls

Aug 01, 2013

If Twitter is the chirping chatterbox of the Internet, trolls are its dark underground denizens. The collision of the two is driving a debate in Britain about the scale of online hatred and the limits of ...

Recommended for you

Obese British man in court fight for surgery

Jul 11, 2011

A British man weighing 22 stone (139 kilograms, 306 pounds) launched a court appeal Monday against a decision to refuse him state-funded obesity surgery because he is not fat enough.

2008 crisis spurred rise in suicides in Europe

Jul 08, 2011

The financial crisis that began to hit Europe in mid-2008 reversed a steady, years-long fall in suicides among people of working age, according to a letter published on Friday by The Lancet.

New food labels dished up to keep Europe healthy

Jul 06, 2011

A groundbreaking deal on compulsory new food labels Wednesday is set to give Europeans clear information on the nutritional and energy content of products, as well as country of origin.

Overweight men have poorer sperm count

Jul 04, 2011

Overweight or obese men, like their female counterparts, have a lower chance of becoming a parent, according to a comparison of sperm quality presented at a European fertility meeting Monday.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Cancer stem cells linked to drug resistance

Most drugs used to treat lung, breast and pancreatic cancers also promote drug-resistance and ultimately spur tumor growth. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have discovered ...

Making graphene in your kitchen

Graphene has been touted as a wonder material—the world's thinnest substance, but super-strong. Now scientists say it is so easy to make you could produce some in your kitchen.