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Online Safety

Online safety is an important issue for everyone, especially children and those using online dating apps. It is important to be aware of the potential dangers of online dating and to take steps to protect yourself from any potential attacks.

We want to ensure that all people have access to safe and secure digital environments. To keep children safe online, we recommend that parents and guardians be aware of the potential risks associated with online activities, which have been outlined below. It’s understandable that the information provided is a lot to understand, and because of that, links have been provided to videos and websites that can bring the information to you in a different way.  Awareness and prevention help reduce dating app-facilitated sexual assault and child sexual abuse materials.

The underlying goal of this information is for people to take extra precautions when engaging in online activities, and if you suspect any signs of child sexual abuse materials or sexual assault, report it immediately. 

Child Sexual Abuse Material

While the internet is indispensable to our lives, it does have a dark side: pictures and videos that capture the sexual abuse of children are more common and easier to access than ever.

Why is it called child sexual abuse material instead of child pornography?

Child sexual abuse material (CSAM) is the new term created to portray a more accurate depiction of the seriousness of this crime. The term “child pornography” is still commonly used, but that doesn’t capture what child pornography is: evidence of child sexual abuse. 

While some of the pornography online depicts adults who have consented to be filmed, that’s never the case when the images/videos depict children. Just like children can not legally consent to sex, the same concept applies to explicit videos/images of children being abused, which is evidence of the abuse.

Who creates and distributes CSAM?

Research shows that the majority of those possessing and distributing CSAM also commit hands-on sexual offenses against minors. Most of the time, the abuse has been committed by someone that the child knows and trusts. Offenders often use grooming techniques to normalize sexual contact and encourage secrecy.

US Sentencing Commission states approximately 60% of offenders in 2019 were related to or otherwise maintained a position of trust over the minor victim.  This includes family members as well as teachers, coaches, and others connected to the child. In about four out of 10 cases, there was more than one minor victim, ranging from two to 440 children.

Where it was possible to determine gender, about 93% of offenders were male and 7% female.

Who are the victims of CSAM?

Victims of CSAM are anyone under the age of 18. That includes prepubescent children and very young children (infants and toddlers). Sadly, the younger the victim, the more severe the abuse was likely to be.

Victims of CSAM often report feeling:

Guilt, shame, and blame. Survivors might feel guilty about not having been able to stop the abuse or even blame themselves if they experienced physical pleasure.

Depression. If negative feelings persist for an extended period of time, it may be an indicator of depression. Depression is not a sign of weakness, and it’s not something that should be expected to “snap out of.

Self-esteem. Survivors may struggle with low self-esteem, which can be a result of the negative messages received from the abuser(s), and from having personal safety violated or ignored. Low self-esteem can affect many different areas of a survivor’s life, such as in relationships, careers, and even in a survivor’s overall health.

Sexual behavior and oversexualized behavior problems. Sexual violence can affect survivors in many ways, including perceptions of the body and feelings of control. There are three main types of eating disorders; anorexia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and bulimia nervosa. It’s also possible to engage in disordered eating that doesn’t fit into one of these categories but is still dangerous.

Intimacy and relationships. It’s possible that first experiences with sex came as a result of sexual abuse. As an adult, intimacy might be a struggle at times. Some survivors experience flashbacks or painful memories while engaging in sexual activity, even though it is consensual and on their own terms. Survivors may also struggle to set boundaries that help them feel safe in relationships.

Obesity and eating disorders. Indulging in food and/or restricting foods is common for survivors of child sexual abuse. The resulting health issues can result in obesity and heart disease.

Post-traumatic stress disorder. It’s normal for survivors of sexual violence to experience feelings of anxiety, stress, or fear. If these feelings become severe, last more than a few weeks, or interrupt day-to-day life, it might be a condition known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Substance and alcohol abuse. It’s possible for survivors to grow up and rely on alcohol and substances to cope, and it can begin in early adolescent years and can last throughout adulthood.

Warning signs for young children. Physical signs, behavioral signs, and emotional signs may be present. The most important thing to keep in mind when looking for signs of child sexual abuse is to keep an eye on sudden changes in behavior. Trust your gut, and don’t ignore your feelings if something seems off. If a child tells you that someone makes them uncomfortable, even if they can’t tell you anything specific, listen.

Reporting CSAM

Click Here to find out more information on how to report CSAM. The information linked provides important guidance on what is needed for the report and other resources needed. (Español)

Other Resources

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Dating App-Facilitated Sexual Assault

Dating app-facilitated sexual assault is an increasingly common form of sexual violence. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in four women and one in ten men have experienced contact with sexual violence, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner through the use of digital technology. Dating apps can be used to facilitate sexual assault by providing a platform for predators to target and groom victims.  

Dating app facilitated sexual assault includes any form of sexual violence, such as rape, harassment, or coercion, that is facilitated by a dating app.  It can happen in person or online, and perpetrators may use the anonymity and ease of access of dating apps to commit these acts.

Prevention strategies should focus on increasing awareness of the prevalence of sexual assault facilitated by dating apps, encouraging users to take safety precautions, and providing resources to survivors.

The Shafer Center for Crisis Intervention encourages users of dating apps to be aware of the various terms used to describe different dating behaviors. Understanding these terms can help you be safe while dating online as well as understanding toxic behavior that comes with online dating. 

Catfishing is when someone creates a false online identity in order to deceive someone else on the internet. Signs of catfishing include requests for money or personal information, a reluctance to meet in person, and a lack of knowledge about the other person's life. It is important to be aware of these signs in order to protect yourself from online scams.

Ghosting occurs when someone ends a relationship without explanation or warning.

Zombieing is when an individual who has ghosted you reappears in your life.

Breadcrumbing is when someone gives you just enough attention to keep you interested, but not enough to commit.

Benching is when someone puts you on the back-burner while they pursue other romantic interests.

Cushioning is when someone dates multiple people at once as a “backup plan” in case their main relationship fails.

Orbiting is when someone stays in contact with an ex after a breakup, without actually getting back together.

Phubbing is when someone is more interested in their phone than the person they are with.

Online Dating Tips

From RAINN

(Depending on the device you are using, you may have to click the image to expand to read all the information)

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