On Friday when you are 15 years and 364 days old, you are covered by grooming legislation as a child. On Saturday (according to some police) you have nothing to protect you against these abusers.
I’ve been reading in horror, about all of these sexual abuse cases. The news, press and Social Media are full of all these horrific experiences that women, men (and children) have been through. The sad truth tho, is that the National Crime Agency (NCA) have statistics that claim 85% of reported sexual abuse cases show women as the victims.
Quite rightly, any act of sexual grooming and abuse against a child is legislated against BUT far too much still needs to be done for the upholders of the law to actually act on the appropriate legislation and stop failing these child victims.
So what happens when you reach 16? What legislation is there to protect you when you have been groomed and targeted by an individual or group who wish to exploit you for intimate sexual pictures, or videos or for sex itself?
The majority of the sexual abuse cases we are hearing about have been committed by someone who is known to that/those individuals. Some of the time that person is in a position of power or a position of trust over that individual, an employer or carer maybe. The abuse may be actioned in the work environment or it may be in an ‘off duty situation’.
What happens if a woman goes on a date? She meets the guy online, they chat for a while, have lots in common and then decide to meet. They go out for a meal and the woman wakes up in a room she doesn’t know, having been given a date rape drug. She knows that something is wrong, things have happened and she goes to the police to report that she has been raped. We’ve all heard of ‘Liar’ the acclaimed ITV series and seen how clever and manipulative these men are. We’ve seen the mask they use to convince those around them that they are kind, humble, grounded pillars of the community. The woman is a liar isn’t she? How could anyone ever think this devoted father and hard working individual in a position held of high esteem would ever do something like that?
For the police, there is still a path of legislation. They track the man in the profile and (as with other cases if they decide they will get a win from the prosecution) he will be questioned and charged.
In February 2016 the NCA delivered a report which highlighted the emerging new threat of sexual offences, initiated through online dating. It can be found here.
The statistic shows the frightening increase in cases over a period of 5 years. 33 offences in 2009, 39 in 2010, 62 in 2011, 79 in 2012, 145 in 2013 and 184 in 2014. More frightening is the fact that when put in context of the amount of cases of sexual assault actually called in, its significance is increased dramatically when only 17% of instances are stated as being reported.
And ultimately, whether invited back immediately or after a period of getting to know each other, 72% of offences were committed at the victim’s or offender’s residence.
Online platforms have proven to provide abusers with easier opportunities than they would ever have had before. However, these sexual offences typically only happen the once per victim. The assault occurs and the offender is found out for what he is. If he gets away with not being reported-the ‘game’ will start again. The grooming, the targeting, the love bombing, the assault. He will do the same to someone else.
BUT… what if that man is clever? What if he creates an entire fake online identity so that he can’t be found out when his game needs to be concluded? What if he’s not interested in a violent struggle for sex or drugging women who may be unresponsive to his touch? But his need, his addiction, is to be with as many women as he can. His thrill is the different experiences each woman brings. His thrill is knowing that he has deceived those women into believing he wants a ‘real relationship’ with them. His deception gives his game longevity. It gives him control over the other person. ‘He’s a decent guy looking for something long term. He’s not into hook ups, doesn’t want to be one of those guys who uses women to just get laid’.
He carries out his deception. He grooms his targets, he builds the trust, he walks into these women’s lives, their homes. Sex becomes part of that ‘loving’ relationship. He can, under the guise of his deceit, manipulate that women to behave as he wants her to behave.
The relationship is great at first, he is everything to you. The intimate times are passionate and completely in line with the ‘relationship’ you believe you are in, along with any emotion spinning story he has told you to gain empathy and keep you hooked. But then, however many weeks or months later, something goes wrong. He isn’t acting the same anymore, things are becoming strained, he is pulling away and then, as quickly as it started he’s gone.
You then discover he doesn’t exist. You discover this man has been doing the same thing for a long time. He has been doing the same thing to several other women at the same time as you. He was constantly online grooming for his next targets, as this is all part of the thrill he so loves.
He was never in the ‘relationships’ he just wanted an easy way to get sex. No struggle, no drugs, but a ‘bank’ of women who gave him that ‘honeymoon period’ adoration and a familiar homely environment to use and abuse them until he had the next lot hooked and in place to renew his thrill seeking.
What about that man? That man is a Catfish.
His mens rea, is proven by the premeditated act of creating a fake identity to deceive and groom women without (he hopes) being discovered. He never divulges his real identity or his true intent to his targets.
His actus reus, his voluntary act that is in itself wrongful or leads to a wrongful result is proved as he comes off line to pursue the ‘relationship/abuse’ he groomed women for. This was his intent and this was his action.
The women they groom mean nothing to them. They are merely a vessel for sexual gratification and thrill of power and control.
By the time it is too late, the abuser has gone. You can’t trace who he really is, this man who manipulated and deceived and used and abused you. The man who online, still has his fake social media, but now doesn’t reply to any of the emails, the Skype calls, or the texts or phone-calls and unless like me you get lucky, you won’t ever find who they really are for any sort of closure.
Thousands of women (and some men) are being abused in this way every year. I am one of 11 so far for this 1 man. We hadn’t even realised what he was. It was only when we talked and pieced puzzles pieces together, the enormity of his deceit became visible. But we did all this between us. Not the police.
Like other sexual abuse initiated online, the police are aware and more so, that only a fraction of the cases of this nature are being reported. This Catfish behaviour adds an extra layer of humiliation and distress to the already understood abuse, for the victim.
BUT the police won’t prosecute this clever and cowardly Catfish for his sexual abuse. They say no legislation exists.
So when, on your 16th birthday, in the eyes of the law you become an adult, these men who were called ‘child groomers’ yesterday when they exhibited this exact behaviour, can now do this with no consequence.
Just a bit of fun or abusing women for sex?
More about hoped for legislation in a later blog.