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What is cybergroomming?
The notion cybergroomer denotes a person that wants to manipulate a selected victim and persuade him/her for a personal meeting. An attacker communicates with a victim via chatting rooms, SMS, ICQ and Skype. The main point of the personal meeting is sexual abuse, physical attack or persuasion to terrorism.
Cybergrooming is a malicious way how to misuse children’s trustfulness, naivety, desire for a friendship, intimacy and adventure. It is actually a typical case of misusing personal information that a victim provides to an aggressor. Its main wiliness, however, lies in deceiving children’s caution in a long period of time and wining trustfulness gradually. It’s not short-term and direct manipulation! Victims of cybergrooming were communicating with aggressors even for several years. There is a publicly known case in which an American 11 years old girl became psychically dependent on an older man after two years and he abused her in the end. You can read about other real cybergrooming stories in the Stories of cybergrooming victims.
The change of identity to attract possible victims is the most frequent manifestation of cybergrooming. Even for a less skilled Internet user isn’t a problem to get pictures of a nice boy or girl, create a charming profile and start communication on chatting rooms, Facebook, ICQ, etc.
The typical process of dependency building roughly looks like that:
- Awakening of interest and effort to isolate a victim from the outer world.
- Buying a friendship by various presents or money.
- Obtaining delicate materials for blackmailing.
- Emotional dependency on an attacker.
- Personal meeting.
- Abuse, attack, blackmailing, ...
Malice of cybergrooming doesn’t lie only in luring a victim out for a personal meeting. Typical cybergrooming, in which an older man pretends to be younger, will still be present in great numbers. On the other hand, there have been an increase of a new and more malicious type which is mentioned in the point 3 – obtaining of incriminating materials thanks to which an aggressor starts to blackmail a victim and the result may be a personal meeting. How may look such a case?
At the beginning, a child may complain about an old mobile phone and an attacker, still in guise of a friend, promises him/her a new one, but in return he wants a picture of a child in swimming suit. In some time, the child complains about not having enough credit in a mobile phone and the aggressor again helps. Credit recharge will, however, cost another picture but this time a more naked one. The child considers it a good deal – he/she exposes a little and will be rewarded. The child maybe feels that there is something wrong and there is someone weird on the other side but he/she wouldn’t go for the personal meeting! As soon as the aggressor gets delicate materials, he is able to use it against the child. He starts to threaten the victim in order to get more photos, videos; otherwise he publishes what he has and sends it to the parents, friends or teachers. Under pressure, the children may break up or succumb to aggressor’s will. You can read more about abuse of photos and videos with sexual contents in the SEXTING part.
The aggressor, however, doesn’t have to use dependence as his tool of blackmailing. Skilful manipulators manage it with a long-term influence on a victim and endow of attention. Boys and girls from dysfunctional families lacking friends suffer from absence of relationships, sharing of intimacy and they have problems with their self-confidence. These are a great prey because they really fall in love with a „friend“ and create hardly degradable emotional dependence.
K. Kopecký - Moderní trendy v elektronické komunikaci
How to protect oneself against a cybergroomer?
The best protection is not to give out any sensitive personal information to a person I know only through the Internet. In any case don’t create incriminating materials and don’t give it out to anybody. If a child wants to meet an online friend, he/she should inform parents. Parents shouldn’t be satisfied only with information that their child is going to a meeting with such a person. A parent may accompany a child for the meeting; recommend a public place for meeting, etc. Instead of parents, it is possible to take a friend who takes a look and when finds out everything all right, he/she leaves. Children could use these questions and advice as protection:
Children could use these questions and advice as protection:
- Think about your on-line friendships, aren’t they contradicting in some information?
- Why he/she doesn’t communicate via webcam, doesn’t he/she make a secret of his/her identity?
- Why does he/she want to keep your relationship in secrecy and why does he/she ask intimate questions?
- Do load an uninteresting photo into your profile, don’t share your age and you will be unattractive and protected.
- Don’t give out anyone your personal information – age, address, phone, e-mail.
- Speak only about what you want; don’t be forced to speak about sexual topics.
- Don’t go for a personal meeting without telling your parents.
A cybergroomer uses some typical steps how to attract and manipulate a victim; here are some of them:
- Communicates with a victim for several months, sometimes over a year before he decides to arrange a meeting in the real world.
- Wants to keep the relationship for the most part, if not all, secret.
- Talks about the meaning of true love in conversations.
- Pretends to be extremely friendly, interested in problems of a victim, listens and advises.
- Supports a victim emotionally and often also financially.
- Talks about continuation of the relationship once you meet in the real world.
- Requires cybersex with use of a webcam, naked pictures, videos, etc. in return.
Stories of cybergrooming victims
- Jiří Kadrnožka (28)
Some time ago, MF DNES newspapers revealed a man lurking a children for sex on the Internet. MF DNES staffers came across Jiří Kadrnožka on a children discussion web site. There he wrote, under his nickname Jirzin, a message: "Is here a girl that will jerk…?" (a vulgar word for satisfying a man by a hand). Staffers then communicate with him under the identity of 11 years old Tereza. Kadrnožka was interested how mature was her body. He arranged a meeting with a putative girl acting as Terezička44 and he came there. When he found out that he had a meeting with staffers, he ran away. The police caught him up according to a photo published in newspapers – Kadrnožka‘s former colleague recognised him. Originally, Kadrnožka got suspended sentence for two years, which the court later reduced for the year due to the fact that he voluntarily went to a sexology clinic and was treated there. At courts, Kadrnožka repeatedly claimed that he shall be presumed innocent and his lawyer sought a complete acquittal. "I had no ulterior motives. I logged in to chat out of curiosity. I regret my behaviour," claimed Kadrnožka.
- Pavel Hovorka (36)
Hovorka worked as a printing works security and he sponsored children’s homes. His first victim won a competition „VIP Child“organised by him and the award was a two-week stay in Prague. In July 2005, a boy thus spent several days with the defendant in a lodge where Hovorka abused him. He searched for other victims on lonely hearts web sites. He was communicating with them for some time. Then, he invited them at his work where victims were supposedly forced to a sexual intercourse. Hovorka offered money for it and he blackmailed some of the victims. He threatened that he would reveal their homosexual orientation and publishes their naked pictures that were sent him for payment. Some of the victims refused so he, accordin to the indictment raped them. Pavel Hovorka has been responsible for the criminal acts of sexual abuse, blackmail, threats of education, sexual seduction and rape. The court ordered him a sex therapy in addition to his imprisonment. He was about to spend twelve years in prison. He, however, has refused his guilt and current appealed.
- Ashleigh Hall (17)
On Monday evening, there was found a dead body of Ashley Hall, 17 in British Sedgefield. She was a victim of cybergrooming. Ashley, a student of nursery, was sociable and had many friends. She also actively used the social network Facebook; there she met with a 16 years old boy. After quite a long period of communication, she arranged a meeting with him. On Sunday night of 25 October 2009, she announced her mother that she was going to her girl friend and that she would stay there overnight. Ashley didn’t come for a lunch on Monday. The girl was killed by a homeless man, Peter Chapman (32) who had a history of convictions for sexual offenses, and his name appeared on the register of sex attackers. The man was captured by the police accidently for driving a car without motor hull insurance. After being taken to the police station, he confessed that he killed Ashley. According to his testimony, the police then found the body of the girl in a ditch. During description of his terrible deed, he said that he suffocated the girl accidently by a sticky tape. How the girl died and whether she was also raped will be proved by a court ordered autopsy. The culprit is waiting for the trial that takes place on 3 November. The man manipulated the girl through the Facebook where he pretended to be a 16 years old boy. Ashley trusted information given through chat and she agreed with a personal meeting. Andrea Hall, Ashley’s mother, warned against all community social web sites: "Tell your children to be more careful on the Internet. Don’t trust anyone and don’t let your children to visit the Facebook and similar pages until they are 18."
- Case from the USA
A 14 years old girl was given a present from her parents – a new computer. After two months of using the Internet, she met an adult man and they were chatting and emailing for some time. When her parents came to know about it, they made a series of measures to stop their communication – they put away a keyboard, they checked her e-mails, phone calls and they visited an advisory centre. Unfortunately, the girl was in touch with the man via a mobile phone that was sent to her by him. The girl disappeared after several months. When the police went through her PC, they found many e-mails that lead them to a network of paedophiles operating in the USA and Europe. A Greek paedophile thus „ordered“ a teenage girl form the United States, arranged a fake passport and provided money for the transport of the girl from the United States to Europe – to Greece. The girl was send back to her parents after five months. Firstly, the girl claimed that she loved and adored this paedophile groomer. However, after extensive therapeutic treatment, she began to remember details of sexual and physical torture; she began to have suicidal tendencies and had to be hospitalized in a psychiatric clinic. The girl was recovering gradually, but her experience and trauma will be with her for the rest of life.