JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The arrest of a man in Volusia County after allegedly traveling to meet a 12-year-old girl for sex is shedding light on a growing threat to kids.
“40 percent of kids say they have been contacted by somebody they don’t know,” said Justin D’Arienzo, a forensic psychologist.
Newly released 2023 crime data suggests that every day, someone’s child is approached online by someone looking to lure them for sexual purposes.
And unfortunately, most parents are not even aware of it happening.
This past weekend was busy for law enforcement going after suspected pedophiles or people who sexually desire children. In Volusia County, a bodycam recorded the arrest of Brandon Donato, 29. He’s accused of traveling to meet a 12-year-old girl for sex. Investigators said before he was caught, he had sex with the child previous times. In Jacksonville, 31-year-old Warren Davis was arrested on seven counts of soliciting a child for sex, molestation and rape. While details are limited in that case, both suspects have one thing in common, they are accused of using the internet to lure a child into sex.
D’Arienzo is an expert on this topic. He said people who enjoy watching child pornography will often take it a step further by seeking out children online for sex.
“They’re often willing to take that risk or they have a growing sexual addiction and they’re finally carrying something out,” D’Arienzo said.
According to the latest data from multiple organizations that track online pedophilia cases and trends, an estimated 500,000 predators have become a daily threat to kids on the internet. The data revealed that the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to the rise in online luring cases. More than 80% of child sex crimes started on the internet. Data shows that 82% of online predators are men and only 15% know what their kids are doing online. Dr. D’Arienzo said the numbers don’t lie and parents must communicate with their kids about this threat.
“I have four kids and I believe they’ve all been contacted by somebody but of course, they have said something to me as we keep an open line of communication,” he said.
The data also revealed that 40% of kids ages 9 to 14 have reported chatting with online strangers. 53% of those same kids gave their phone numbers to a stranger and 11% of those kids have met the stranger in person.
“They’re getting attention,” D’Arienzo said. “They may enjoy the experience in a childlike way. But then that becomes so traumatic for them because they have guilt about that experience.”
The data also shows the number one method of luring children is engaging in role play and sexual conversation. The second most used method is asking children to send sexually explicit pictures and the third method is developing a friendship.
“Those are all ways of grooming. I mean there are so many pathways,” D’Arienzo said.
Pathways that according to experts, predators are more than willing to exploit at the expense of harming a child.
That’s why law enforcement urges parents to stay on top of their child’s online activity.
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