A study has revealed that abused adolescent girls are more likely than their non-abused counterparts to express themselves in a provocative manner online (through their avatar and profile information), have more sexually explicit encounters online, and engage in offline activity with those they’ve met online. The study was published in the June issue of Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
While the findings are revealing with respect to Internet activity, the recommendations by the study’s lead author, Jennie G. Noll (Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Ohio) don’t jibe with findings from other studies. If followed, the recommendations could potentially re-victimize those who have already been victimized.
The authors encourage parents to become aware of how their daughters “present themselves on the Internet and be aware that provocative self-presentation might have implications for sexual solicitation.” They note, “the importance of parental monitoring of adolescent Internet use cannot be understated."
Sure — if the parent doing the monitoring is not also the perpetrator.
While the study found “caregiver presence was associated with significantly fewer reports by adolescents of online solicitations," it is also important to note that 62 percent of females under the age of 18 were abused by someone known to them. Furthermore, in more than half these cases the biological father was the perpetrator.
Statistically then, a significant number of abused girls could be monitored by the very person who abused them in the first place. Even in those cases where the perpetrator has been removed, the girls in question still created an online presence that could compromise their safety — and some met in person with those they met online, further jeopardizing their well-being.
It is not uncommon for an abuse victim to (consciously or unconsciously) recreate a scenario similar to the initial abuse in an effort to gain control over the outcome in the hope of resolving the internal conflict created by the initial abuse. This need is a known phenomenon, and should therefore be addressed before the victim puts herself in a situation where she might be re-victimized. That the authors were too shortsighted to see how their suggestion could easily lead to the abuser monitoring the abused is inexcusable.
The recommendations are dangerously off-base, and the findings do nothing more than confirm what happens when abused girls go untreated. Instead of studying the girls, the authors might seriously consider the best way to treat them.