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New Study to Find Reasons for Dramatic Rise in Internet Sexual Offenses
Research will increase child safety online by helping police target sexual offenders

The Le RoyalOctober 25, 2011 (Ottawa) – A new grant will allow researchers to better understand of the risk posed by internet sexual offenders and to identify factors associated with sexual abuse perpetration.

The research team is comprised of investigators from the Medical University of South Carolina, Royal Ottawa Health Care Group, and John Hopkins University. Leading MUSC’s involvement is Dr. Gregg Dwyer, Director of Forensic Psychiatry and the Sexual Behaviors Clinic and Lab of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at MUSC. The $766,574 US 3-year grant was funded by the US Office of Justice Programs through a child protection grants program.

The research will take three years and the outcomes will include:

  • Improved child safety online by identifying policies and practices that can reduce risk of internet sexual offending, which includes not only crimes involving child pornography but also the use of online technologies to sexually solicit children.
  • More efficient and effective allocation of police and other resources to the investigation of internet sexual crimes, e.g., identifying factors that can be used to prioritize cases where there is likely to be a sexual abuse victim as well;
  • Increased understanding of internet offending, which can translate to better assessment and treatment practices;

The study is unique, in part, because of its large sample size. The team will collect data from a large sample of cases in order to describe offender characteristics, distinguish those who have also sexually abused children from those who have no such history, and identify predictors of recidivism. Most other research into internet-based sexual offenses has focused on clinical samples and typically involves smaller samples.

The principal investigators for the project are: R. Gregg Dwyer, MD, EdD, Director of Forensic Psychiatry and the Sexual Behaviors Clinic and Lab of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Medical University of South Carolina; Elizabeth J. Letourneau, PhD, Associate Professor in the Department of Mental Health of the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University; and Michael Seto, PhD, C.Psych., Director of Forensic Rehabilitation Research at Royal Ottawa, Canada Health Care Group Integrated Forensic Program. Dana Dehart, PhD, co-investigator, is a Research Associate Professor at the University of South Carolina’s Center for Child & Family Studies.

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