D1.2 Report on interview results (per country/ final) [1/2]


In this deliverable we present the results of the analysis of the in-depth interviews conducted with experts, offenders and victims of the three cybercrimes studied in the project: online grooming, cyber bullying and human trafficking for sexual exploitation. In each crime, after a brief introduction, we describe the risk and protective factors and the main socio-demographic elements of the victims and offenders in the sample. Next, we analyze the modus operandi, with special attention to gender differences. Finally, we detail some of the consequences of the crime, and key elements for prevention. Due to the size of the sample, the analysis has been done as a whole and not individually for each area. Nevertheless, all the experts consulted agreed that there are no differences in the issues identified. There may be only slight differences in terms of legislation and the social awareness of society (e.g. through prevention programs). 

Regarding online grooming, we have conducted twenty-three interviews with experts in the field, fifteen with offenders and eight with victims. Although any child can become a victim and may simply be seeking new experiences or driven by curiosity, we found certain vulnerability characteristics in victims that can become risk factors, such as difficulties interacting with others face-to-face, episodes of anorexia, bullying, sexual abuse, absent parents, and school problems. In addition, the higher use of the Internet -such as spending a lot of time on social networks- seems to be a risk factor, as well as to have a public profile. In the interviews with the offenders, we found that most of them were males in their twenties or thirties, as indicated to us by the experts. We found that loneliness was a repeated reason to explain both spending a lot of time on the Internet and ending up in a grooming situation.It is also important to mention that at the time of the offense some offenders were at a critical time in their lives. Regarding the persuasion strategies, we found that most of the offenders lied on the Internet about their age, personality and status to feel less vulnerable and to contact minors, although less than half used a fake profile. We can also observe the same persuasion strategies described in the literature review and by experts: deception, implication, corruption, coercion and blackmail. 

Overall, the results obtained are very similar to those we predicted with the literature (D1.1) and in the sentence analysis (D1.4). Firstly, we had similar findings related with the age of both, victims and offenders, being the figure of the young offender key for prevention. Secondly, the most used networks or platforms are related to the frequency of use, rather than to possible security breaches, and the appearance of the victim’s profile does not seem to be so relevant. According to D1.4, about 20% of the crimes were committed by known offenders. Thirdly, the most common and dangerous strategy would be implication, which together with coercion usually includes the threat of breaking off the relationship. Finally, gender differences are discussed as they need to be considered for prevention. 

In relation to the analysis of the interviews on cyberbullying, we have conducted thirteen interviews with experts in cyberbullying, eight with offenders and twelve with victims. Though according to experts there does not seem to be a specific offender or victim profile, we noticed a certain vulnerability among the victims interviewed that can be considered as a risk factor. At the moment of bullying, many (but not all) of the victims were feeling sad, helpless, scared, or 

humiliated. On the other end, offenders tend in general to gain recognition and increase their own popularity, but in some cases they may not be aware of the harm they cause. There are even examples of offenders who perpetrate cyberbullying as a reaction to a denigrating behaviour of the victim towards them. In general cyberbullying is related to face-to-face bullying and it is a prolongation of the latter. However, cyberbullying has the risk of becoming harsher, being an online phenomenon. This is because offenders do not perceive the direct consequences of their actions and there are no immediate (physical) repercussions. Furthermore online bullying can happen 24/7, which makes it more difficult for victims to escape their oppressor. 

Finally, the problem of human trafficking of minors for the purpose of sexual orientation will be discussed. In this section, we will specifically focus on the strategies used by “loverboys” or “Romeo pimps”, as this is an especially hidden form of crime – in that it largely remains undetected in many member states – that is widespread within Europe. We focus on the narratives of Belgian specialists on the matter in this section, given the scarce available victims and offenders in most of the project’s regions which makes victim and offender interviews impossible for most partners. Nevertheless, 10 interviews with victims and offenders have just been conducted (there was a delay with prison permissions) and their analysis will be incorporated into the next version of this deliverable, D1.3. The main message was that the loverboy problem has existed all the time, and is probably the most common form of human trafficking that haunts European youth. Even though no specific victim and offender profiles can be established, some core risk factors do emerge from the expert interviews. There was widespread agreement that for victims, attachment problems are at the very core of their vulnerability. Victims who are insecure, do not have a good social network or bond with their parents, who look for their identity, are all at a heightened risk of loverboys. In this context, special attention should be given to groups who are especially vulnerable in terms of attachment, such as the LGBTQ2+ population. For offenders, the main driver simply is monetary gain. As they are usually not well educated and do not have well paying jobs, they go for the easy money by exploiting vulnerable victims. Further, and contrary to popular belief, they often are rather young, charming, and seemingly successful men, who court the victim in a romantic relationship. They do not often need to apply coercive or blackmailing techniques, as the victim is emotionally invested in the offender, and the fear of losing “the only person in the world who understands them” suffices to keep victims in their grasp. Finally, in terms of prevention, experts indicate that this form of crime is difficult to prevent, given its hidden nature, the emotional nature of the relationship, and the fact that the risk factors may be indicative of much more than only the presence of a loverboy problem. For this reason, they recommended a more general approach: general education of what is an acceptable sexual relationship, general education of what is acceptable in a romantic relationship and general resilience training.