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Surprising findings on Internet sex offenders

People have a pretty common -- and often misguided -- opinion on what a sex offender looks like and how he or she behaves. However, the truth is that every person, every case and every offense is different.

Unfortunately, there is a tendency to lump every offender together and write them off as dangerous and even mentally unstable. This can be a harmful thing to do because it can lead to mistreating or ignoring people who do not fall under that umbrella of what people think a sex offender is which can only make the problem worse.

For example, people often assume that when an adult and minor engage in sexual or inappropriate exchanges online, it is the result of efforts by the adult to trick or "lure" the child or teen. However, according to information from the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers, studies have shown that in most cases, teens know the person to whom they are talking is an adult. Often, the teens willingly agree to meet the adult and view it as a romantic relationship.

This is a sharp departure from the idea that all Internet sex offenders trick, lie, lure and/or bribe unsuspecting minors into a dangerous situation. While an adult may still be charged with statutory rape, treatment, risk assessment and penalties can be more effective when the nature of the offense is more well-defined.

Another surprising finding about Internet sex offenders is that a majority of them have no official history or background in "contact sexual offenses," according to some studies. This suggests that while they may engage in unlawful conduct online, most Internet offenders do not make direct contact with victims or potential victims.

These findings are another example of a departure from the general assumption. And again, failure to appropriately address the reality of the issue could seriously jeopardize or minimize the efficacy of treatment and court-ordered penalties.

What we want readers to take away from this post is the understanding that every situation is different and should be handled individually. Just because a person is accused of sexual misconduct does not mean he or she is violent, a predator or suffering from psychological or emotional conditions that warrant aggressive treatment and penalties. Speaking with an attorney about the specifics of a case can be crucial if you or a loved one has been accused of a sexual crime.

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