Characterization of contact offenders and child exploitation material trafficking on five peer-to-peer networks.
There is much concern about the likelihood that online sexual offenders (particularly online child pornography offenders) have either committed or will commit offline sexual offenses involving contact with a victim. This study addresses this question in two meta-analyses: the first examined the contact sexual offense histories of online offenders, whereas the second examined the recidivism rates from follow-up studies of online offenders. The first meta-analysis found that approximately 1 in 8 online offenders (12%) have an officially known contact sexual offense history at the time of their index offense (k = 21, N = 4,464). Approximately one in two (55%) online offenders admitted to a contact sexual offense in the six studies that had self-report data (N = 523). The second meta-analysis revealed that 4.6% of online offenders committed a new sexual offense of some kind during a 1.5- to 6-year follow-up (k = 9, N = 2,630); 2.0% committed a contact sexual offense and 3.4% committed a new child pornography offense. The results of these two quantitative reviews suggest that there may be a distinct subgroup of online-only offenders who pose relatively low risk of committing contact sexual offenses in the future.