Thirty-five men were arrested last weekend in an extensive underage sex sting where the men allegedly solicited sex with people they thought were underage teenage girls. As reported, those arrested include a youth baseball and football coach employed by the city of Tallahassee, a corrections officer for Florida Department of Corrections and an attorney for the Agency for Persons with Disabilities.  Those arrested had traveled to an agreed upon location to meet up for sex with the undercover cops, whom they believed to be underage teenage girls.

One mom reported being shocked that her son’s baseball coach was once of those arrested, saying that the coach had always appeared “nice” and was an “incredible coach”.  Parents should be aware that Internet predators are in all professions; doctors, lawyers, clergy members, teachers and even law enforcement personnel have been found guilty of Internet-initiated child sexual abuse.  Often, an online predator will blend into society, will appear outwardly law-abiding and are trusted by parents, children and their community at large.  At times, a predator will use their position in society to throw off suspicion and will engage in activities that allow them to be around children.

Perpetrators of child sex abuse and Internet predators often have multiple victims, so, although these men arrested were, in this instance, communicating with law enforcement, I wouldn’t be surprised if they had also solicited actual underage girls through the Internet.  Interestingly, only a small amount of Internet-initiated crimes involve extreme deception.  Often, when a teen meets up with an Internet predator in person, they are aware that they are meeting with an adult for a sexual encounter. As the grooming process continues, once they have created a strong emotional bond with their victim, they will reveal more about their true age and true intentions.

Some law enforcement personnel have explained that teens that have experienced exposure to pornography or who may have experienced some form of child sexual abuse may even appear to be the aggressors, seeking out older adults to “hook up” with.  It should be noted that popular culture has also normalized the sexualization of youth and, at times, even glorifies adult-to-teen sexual encounters.  Additionally, one of the most popular types of pornography online today is “Barely Legal” content, which depicts pornography actresses that appear pre-pubescent, performing sexually with older adult males.

Parents must combat these messages and keep in constant conversation with youth about what is and what isn’t appropriate sexually.  Parents must also be involved with their kids lives, online and offline.  Be aware of with whom they are communicating with and what activities they are engaging in.  If they become obsessed about being online, secretive and withdrawn from family and friends, then you should have a conversation with them.  If you find that they are downloading pornography or even creating child pornography, they most likely have had some type of inappropriate exposure to pornography or inappropriate contact with a peer or predator.  If your child receives phone calls or presents from people you do not know, this is a telltale sign that your son or daughter may be at risk.  If you ever find evidence that your child is communicating with an online predator, contact the local authorities immediately.