Sexual Abuse Online | A Child Dignity-Conference at Rome discussed a new Type of Perpetrators – Adolescents

The fight against sexualized violence online against children and adolescents is at a turning point. In Rome, researchers, NGOs, governments and representatives of IT and Internet giants have met to discuss the risks of children in the digital world. (Child dignity in the digital world) The meeting took place at the Centre for Child Protection of the Pontifical University of Gregoriana. The debate involved a new alliance – and an extended concept of perpetrators. But the redefinition of offenders brings with it a risk. Experts for online sexual abuse from around the world – including Chinese and Russians, who are in favor of a strict regulation of the network – conclude that beside a well known group of criminals, who are looking for victims in the platforms and chats of the network there emerges now an another group of criminals – adolescents who sexually harass other juveniles. One should not categorize these young people as incurable pedophile monsters, said several participants. (

Sexualized language of the network and sending of nude pictures or selfies is typical for the teenager group, and it puts juveniles close to abuse. Strictly speaking, many of the teenagers practice sexual online abuse. „But we can not prosecute and arrest all of these perpetrators,“ said Ernie Allen, a veteran of the fight against sexual abuse, who organized the conference in Rome together with father Hans Zollner of the Pontifical Gregorian University. We have to take preventive action, said Allen. „We have to tackle the youthfulness of adolescents like a health care problem: the sooner, the better.“

Unprepared into the net

No one would contradict the approach of early prevention for juvenile sexteers and cyberbullies. Only the approach of a comprehensive and early education to a democratic network culture is one of the most tacit vocabulary and also one of the largest vacancies. Until now, young people are almost unprepared to enter the net, neither parents, schools or authorities know how to enlighten them about risks there. And how is the difference between adult, quasi-professional pedophiles and juvenile, non-perpetrators? After all, the reference to an early sexual practice of adolescents is one of the oldest arguments of (organized) pedophiles, in order to portray the exertion of their inclinations as normal or even legal. (Follow this link to watch Sessions of Child Dignity)

Hans Zollner, Ernie Allen and others see this problem – and still consider their approach as right. The size of the task does not justify the loss of courage. A new alliance of state and civil society, of business and religious communities, would be able to cope with the task.

Microsoft and Facebook

How complicated the new big alliance is, showed the experince with netgiants like Microsoft and Facebook. They gave friendly non-commitments to the new alliance. Their spokespersons gave wise lectures – and at the same time resigned to offer a resource that they have in abundance: money. See e.g. Director for Cyber Security of Microsoft, Jacqueline Beauchere:

The three-day conference, which ends with an audience with the Pope (Friday, 6 October), was sponsored by the Federal Government of Germany, presumably from the abuse research fund of the Ministry of Education. But the Germans, apart from the money, became disgraceful at the conference. The alleged anti-abuse fighter Jutta Croll, who was one the speakers, has long since changed sides and now works for an organisation, which is in fact an internet lobby „digital opportunities„. German  Secretary of State for Education, Cornelia Quennet-Thielen (CDU), had probably not considered the conference topic in the preparation of her speech: she gave a lecture that suited the abuse in the analog world quite well – but had nothing to do with online sexualized violence. Quennet claimed, we do not know much about online abuse – an eavesdrop for the gathered world expertise of online abuse. She resumed, we need more research. The South African and lawyer Benyam Dawit Mezmur answered dryly: „We need more action“. In Africa and Asia, 500 million young Internet users will soon be online. They should do so well informed.“

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