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Abused Teenage Girls at Risk for Internet Victimization

Study finds provocative presentation on the Internet also increases risk for sexual advances

WEDNESDAY, May 27 (HealthDay News) -- Teenage girls who have suffered childhood abuse or present themselves provocatively online are at greater risk for sexual solicitation and victimization, according to a study in the June 6 issue of Pediatrics.

Jennie G. Noll, Ph.D., of Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, and colleagues recruited 173 adolescent girls (14 to 17 years old), including a cohort with substantiated reports of childhood abuse and a demographically-matched cohort without reported abuse. The cohorts were surveyed about Internet usage, maternal and paternal caregivers, substance use, sexual attitudes, and high-risk peers. To assess self-presentation, each subject was asked to create an Internet avatar, which was scored according to the sexually provocative features selected. Path analysis was used to assess the associations among surveyed risk factors, sexual advances online, and encounters offline.

The researchers found that 40 percent of the girls had had sexual advances on the Internet and 26 percent had subsequently met someone they encountered on the Internet. The girls with a substantiated history of abuse were more likely to have experienced online sexual advances and to have met someone offline than those with no abuse history.

"A history of childhood abuse may increase Internet-initiated victimization vulnerability. Parents should be aware of the ways in which their adolescents are presenting themselves online. Making adolescent girls and their parents aware that provocative online self-presentations may have implications for sexual solicitation might help to ward off sexual advances and might help prevent Internet-initiated victimizations," the authors conclude.

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