How can you protect yourself from a Catfisher or an online predator?
Why do they do what they do? Catfishers want something from you. These are people that are not motivated by love, but are driven by money, perverse sexual desires and criminal intent.
- Money is usually the first thing predators want from adult contacts
- They want to win you over and manipulate you, so you begin to desire them in a sexual way and that means you will begin to trust them
- They will use your photographs and distribute them to other online predators, they will re-post the pictures online in sexual forums or just enjoy your photographs themselves, privately
- They want to have conversations with you, texting or otherwise, in order to get sexually aroused during the conversation
- Any of the above contacts will enable these predators to black-mail, extort or rape you
There are some scary statistics on Catfishers or online predators.
- An estimated 725,000 people are aggressively pursued online for sex or extortion annually in the US
- In 2005 alone, 25% percent of rapists used online dating sites to find their victims
- In 2011, the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center lodged 5,600 complaints from victims of “romance scams” or “catfishers”
- Reports say victims of these romance scams have lost over fifty million dollars—however authorities know this figure is much higher because many victims are too embarrassed to report the incidents
- Every 2 minutes a person in America is sexually assaulted
- 1 out of 4 children in the U.S. have been sent pictures of people who were naked or having sex by an online predator
- Each year Internet predators commit over 16,000 abductions, over 100 murders, and thousands of rapes
- Over 39,000 verified Registered Sex Offenders have profiles on social media sites
- 1 out of 5 kids have been solicited for sex on the Internet
- 1 out of 4 kids have been contacted online by a person not representing themselves in a true or accurate way
- Only 25% of kids tell parents or adults about any online encounters
- 77% of the time, the targets for online predators are usually in the 11-14 year-old-age range
- 25% of children that were surveyed were exposed to unwanted pornographic material
Dating Safety Tips
Online dating often leads to offline dates, which may end up as a successful relationship. However, before you meet someone in person, take all the time you need to get well-acquainted with this person, so there is hopefully nothing to worry about when you meet face-to-face. Sexual assault on a date is definitely not an everyday occurrence, nonetheless, you need to ensure your personal safety when planning to meet someone for a first date. Take the time to really get to know a person and dangerous incidents are less likely to occur.
The predators need to be exposed, if you or anyone you know has been contacted by an online predator or has received unwanted solicitation from someone online, call the police and notify the social networking site on which the contact was made.
- NEVER give out your personal information or home address online, even giving out the town you live in can reveal too much information to a predator
- Don’t reply to social media messages from people you don’t know
- NEVER meet face-to-face with someone you have just met online, give yourself and the contact at least 3 weeks to get to know each other before a face-to-face is planned
- Never download image files from an unknown source, they could contain sexually explicit images that could put you in a compromising legal situation
- Avoid chat rooms or discussion forums that are sexually proactive
- If you receive uncomfortable or frightening material, end the communication, block the person from contacting you and report them to the dating site or the social networking site
- If you receive an unwanted solicitation call 911, contact the dating site or the social networking site and report the perpetrator immediately
Sexual assault and date rape are definitely not common occurrences when meeting an online date. Read and follow the safety advice for first date meetings that have been outlined on your online dating site, so you are well-prepared. In addition, here are some of tips that will be useful too.
- Always take the time to get well-acquainted with someone before you plan a meeting. Talking to this person online or on the phone for three weeks is a good amount of time to ensure this person is safe to meet
- Bookend the date, which means you notify a friend where the date is, whom the date is with and when the date starts and then again, contact the same friend when you leave the date, to ensure you are home and are safe
- Meet in a public place, like a restaurant, coffee shop, and drive your own car or know the public transportation schedule in order to leave to catch the last bus. At no time should this first date drive you home
- While on the date, always be very aware of your surroundings. Keep an eye on your drink at all times. Date rape drugs are very easy to drop into any drink. Drinking coffee with a lid on the cup is probably your best defense against this kind of occurrence
- Getting a girl drunk is a common ploy for a predator, so watch how much alcohol you drink. In fact, many online dating site guidelines do not recommend going to a bar or having a drink on the first date
- Be cautious during your first few meetings with this person. Have the dates in open public places and stay away from dark and deserted situations
- Never go to this person’s home or to a hotel until months into your dating experience
What do you do if you have been assaulted?
If you believe you may be a victim of sexual assault, the first thing you should do is immediately contact the police and report the crime, no matter how small you might think the crime is. It is common for victims to blame themselves in a case of assault, however you must always remember that this predator had absolutely no justification to attack you. It is also very important to protect your health, go to the hospital and request to have a sexual assault forensic exam, the staff will administer some tests that are compiled into what is sometimes known as a “rape kit.” These exams will preserve possible DNA evidence and you will receive important medical care. You don’t have to report the crime to have this exam, but the process gives you the chance to safely store evidence, should you decide to report the crime at a later time.
- If you feel you cannot handle going to the hospital alone, try asking an understanding family member or friend to escort you to the hospital.
- If necessary, you can also speak with a rape hotline operator, an experienced therapist or social worker who can help you deal with it. For more information, reference the local hotlines and services that are featured below
- If you choose not to have a sexual assault forensic exam, it is also a good idea to to go to a clinic or to see a doctor who can test you for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
- To find a location near you that performs sexual assault forensic exams, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (656-4673) or talk to your local sexual assault service provider
Here are some National Resources for Victims of a Catfisher
Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) https://www.ic3.gov/ A partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C).
National Sexual Assault Hotline: National hotline, operated by RAINN, that serves people affected by sexual violence. It automatically routes the caller to their nearest sexual assault service provider. You can also search your local center here. Hotline: 800.656.HOPE (656-4673)
National Sexual Violence Resource Center: This site offers a wide variety of information relating to sexual violence including a large legal resource library.
National Organization for Victim Assistance: Founded in 1975, NOVA is the oldest national victim assistance organization of its type in the United States as the recognized leader in this noble cause.
National Online Resource Center on Violence Against Women: VAWnet, a project of the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence hosts a resource library home of thousands of materials on violence against women and related issues, with particular attention to its intersections with various forms of oppression.
U.S. Department of Justice: National Sex Offender Public Website: NSOPW is the only U.S. government Website that links public state, territorial, and tribal sex offender registries from one national search site.
The National Center for Victims of Crime: The mission of the National Center for Victims of Crime is to forge a national commitment to help victims of crime rebuild their lives. They are dedicated to serving individuals, families, and communities harmed by crime.
Child Abuse/Sexual Abuse:
National Child Abuse Hotline: They can provide local referrals for services. A centralized call center provides the caller with the option of talking to a counselor. They are also connected to a language line that can provide service in over 140 languages. Hotline: 800.4.A.CHILD (800-422-2253)
Darkness to Light: They provide crisis intervention and referral services to children or people affected by sexual abuse of children. Hotline calls are automatically routed to a local center. Helpline: 866.FOR.LIGHT (367.5444)
Cyber Tip Line: This Tipline is operated by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Can be used to communicate information to the authorities about child pornography or child sex trafficking. Hotline: 800.THE.LOST (800-843-5678)
National Children’s Alliance: This organization represents the national network of Child Advocacy Centers (CAC). CACs are a multidisciplinary team of law enforcement, mental and physical health practitioners who investigate instances of child physical and sexual abuse. Their website explains the process and has a directory according to geographic location.
Stop It Now: Provides information to victims and parents/relatives/friends of child sexual abuse. The site also has resources for offender treatment as well as information on recognizing the signs of child sexual abuse. Hotline: 888-PREVENT (888-773-8368)
Justice for Children: Provides a full range of advocacy services for abused and neglected children.
Domestic, Dating and Intimate Partner Violence:
National Domestic Violence Hotline: Through this hotline an advocate can provide local direct service resources (safe-house shelters, transportation, casework assistance) and crisis intervention. Interpreter services available in 170 languages. They also partner with the Abused Deaf Women’s Advocacy Center to provide a videophone option. Hotline: 800-799-SAFE (800-799-7233)
National Teen Dating Abuse Online Helpline: This online helpline assists teens who are, or may be, in abusive relationships. Call 1-866-331-9474, chat at loveisrespect.org or text “loveis” to 22522, any time, 24/7/365
Americans Overseas Domestic Violence Crisis Center: The center serves abused Americans, mostly women and children, in both civilian and military populations overseas. In addition to providing domestic violence advocacy, safety planning and case management, the center assists victims with relocation, emergency funds for housing and childcare, and funds for payment of legal fees. International & Toll-Free 866-USWOMEN (866- 879-6636) (Available 24/7/365)
National Coalition against Domestic Violence: The national coalition of Domestic Violence organizations is dedicated to empowering victims and changing society to a zero tolerance policy. Call the Nat’l #DomesticViolence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (799-7233) if you or someone you love is a victim and needs help
(See also resources on Child Abuse/ Sexual Abuse above)
Survivors of Incest Anonymous: They provide information on how to find incest survivor support groups in your area and empowers individuals to become survivors and thrivers.
GirlThrive: Girlthrive Inc. honors teen girls and young women who have survived incest and all sex abuse through thriverships, opportunity and education.
Stalking Resource Center: The Stalking Resource Center is a program of the National Center for Victims of Crime. Their website provides statistics on stalking, information on safety planning and other resources.